10 March 2010

Op-Ed on Australia's Decarbonization

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has just published an op-ed of mine on the implications of proposed emissions reduction policies on the decarbonization of Australia's economy. Here is an excerpt:
To become as carbon efficient as Japan by 2020 would require replacing its entire coal energy with a zero-carbon alternative.

If energy demand increases by 1.5 per cent per year - a rate lower than expected economic growth - then Australia would need to build the equivalent amount of carbon-free energy of 46, 750 megawatt (MW) nuclear power plants to replace its coal generation. That is not going to happen.

Several of my colleagues in Australia didn't like the analogy, since, as they tell me, "Australia doesn't do nuclear".

So we can express the magnitude of the challenge in another way, in terms of the number of 10 MW solar thermal power plants of the sort found in Cloncurry, Queensland. To decarbonise to the level of Japan by 2020 would require 12,667 of these plants, or about 24 of them coming online every week over the next decade. That is not going to happen either.

We can play with the numbers and make different assumptions, but the results will be the same: the magnitude of the challenge implied by Australia's pending emissions trading legislation is huge, likely unachievable.
Have a look, and please feel free to ask any questions. The analysis, of course, is based on my paper on the same subject.