Renewable light at the end of the tunnel

It gets depressing when you hear and read about adaptation over mitigation, coal over renewables and no hope over hope. So I’m cheering myself up a bit this morning with three good news stories from around the world, two from market driven forces and one from legislative driven forces.

The first is from the US, the stalwart of inaction – well certainly the stalwart of being noncommittal. This one is from a website called 2degrees, great site worth a visit. They have reported that according to the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook 2013 that the US doubled it’s renewable energy capacity (excl. hydro) from 44GW in 2008 to 86GW in 2012. Couple that with their gas generated electricity and their grid emissions fell by 13% over the same period. In the words of an american friend – awesome (prolong the emphasis on the awe).

Onto the legislative driven change – Germany. Luckily it looks like they didn’t listen to their former adviser who said let us focus now on adaptation. They have continued to take their stance of “look what we are doing, surely you can do the same, it ain’t that hard”. True leadership. They are well and truly on their way to achieving their target of 80% renewables by 2050, they are close to achieving 40% from renewables by 2022! Between 2011 and 2012 they achieved a 15% increase in renewable energy (just in the year!) to reach 23% from renewable energy in 2012.

Now onto my home turf – Australia. A laggard in the realms of decarbonising our electricity grid. The government has its hands tied by the bank balance – high tax earner from coal exports – so legislating a renewable energy target close to Germanys is virtually impossible. But here is the light at the end of the tunnel, Australia is very good at responding to market driven reform – if the market can’t get finance or if its cheaper to do something else then the market will respond. And here is the change that the market will respond to “Rising risk prices out new coal-fired plants: report” from the Sydney Morning Herald – thanks Dave Collins of Cundall Sydney for finding this one.

The report draws on various sources for information but the long and the short is renewable energy is now cheaper than coal fired electricity generation, and cheaper than gas fired power generation. “Wind farms can now generate electricity at $80 per megawatt-hour, compared with $143 for a new coal power station and $116 for a new baseload gas power station.” Even if Abbot gets in and abolishes the carbon tax wind will still be cheaper!

As a quick comparison, using the triharder calculations trigen units in buildings is about $140-150 per megawatt-hour.

PV (solar farms) are still a bit more expense at $157 per megawatt-hour but not for long, “By 2020, wind power’s cost per megawatt-hour will drop to $70 and then to $66 by 2030. The cost of large-scale solar PVs will drop to $97 for an equivalent amount of electricity and then to $87 10 years later”.

So the response we usually get when we talk about the grid being decarbonised in Australia is “it will never happen the Government doesn’t have enough power”, maybe not. But the market does have the power.

If you can buy electricity cheaper from a renewable energy provider rather than a coal fired electricity provider then you will, regardless of your views about climate change and treehugging.

Now that one deserves a very prolonged awe on awesome.

2 Comments on “Renewable light at the end of the tunnel

  1. Pingback: Positive unintended consequences – grid carbon intensity improves « SIMON WILD

  2. Pingback: Positive Unintended Consequences | Cundall Convers - ations

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