By Jennifer Macey
ABC News Online, Tue Jun 22, 2010
A Melbourne University report says all of Australia's energy could come from renewable sources by 2020 as opposed to the Federal Government's target of 20 per cent.
The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan was launched in Canberra this morning by Coalition Senator Judith Troeth, independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Greens Senator Christine Milne.
Currently, wind and solar power provide less than 1 per cent of Australia's total energy needs.
The most commonly cited obstacle to renewable energy is base load power - the need to provide electricity 24 hours a day, during the day and night when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.
But the Beyond Zero Emissions report insists Australia could achieve the 100 per cent renewable energy goal.
Beyond Zero Emissions executive director Matthew Wright says the 10-year road map focuses on technologies that are already commercially available such as wind and large-scale solar thermal.
"The inherent design of a solar thermal plant is that it stores its heat away for night time," he said.
"We've modelled that from our 12 solar regions across the country and our 23 wind sites that we get 100 per cent of our power needs, 365 days a year, 24-7."
The report says the goal would also depend on a $92 billion upgrade to create one national electricity grid that would link the renewable projects to the city and urban areas.
University of Melbourne Energy Institute professor Mike Sandiford says cost should not impede the switch to renewable energy.
"To do it in 10 years is in many ways akin to a infrastructure roll out of a wartime-like operation in many senses," he said.
"But the important point of the plan is that costs are not a real impediment. The total costs of our business as usual comes down to about a cup of coffee per person per day."
But the modelling for the report assumes that by 2020 energy use will drop by half through energy efficiency savings.
Professor Sandiford says the plan is also based on a shift towards public transport and electric cars, which he says would offset any projected increases in electricity use.
"In many ways the plan is looking across the total energy domain," he said.
Senator Troeth says it is a worthy goal to aim for 100 per cent renewable energy but remains to be convinced about the path to get there.
"The ambitions of this report are commendable ... [but] I may not agree with all of the recommendations put forward in this report," she said.
"It's important that we continue to have a robust debate on the most effective and efficient ways to reduce carbon emissions."