- Published: 31 August 2005 31 August 2005
Australia’s Clean Energy Future
Dominique La Fontaine looks at the global energy challenge of our time and the potential role that Australia’s large untapped wind energy resource can play in the clean energy mix. In Australia, climate change is finally being acknowledged by Australian governments, businesses and communities as an issue that needs to be urgently addressed. Perhaps more significantly, the link is now being drawn between Australia’s unrelenting drought and our rising greenhouse gas emissions. Low-emission energy sources are being debated as the only way forward for Australia’s energy future.
By Dominique La Fontaine, CEO, Australian Wind Energy Association
The Australian wind energy industry is on the cusp of a short-term boom. The growth of the renewable energy industry has been encouraged by the Federal Government’s Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET), the mechanism for clean power in Australia. Under the current MRET, there is the capacity for a further 1,000MW of wind energy projects to be developed over the next two years, with a total estimated investment of nearly A$ 2 billion.
However, this new investment accounts for just one-sixth of the projects already undergoing feasibility assessments. The vast majority of Australian projects will lie dormant unless future industry support mechanisms can be secured.
A report commissioned by the Australian Greenhouse Office in 2003 found that the national electricity market is already able to support installed wind capacity of over 8,000MW (Australia’s current capacity is 471MW), provided that the progressive development of wind farms is enabled in a dispersed fashion, that commercial wind output forecasting is in place and that interstate connectivity continues to be enhanced. Despite this potential, less than 1% of Australia’s energy supply is likely to come from wind energy by 2010 under existing federal targets.
In late 2004, a groundbreaking study by the Clean Energy Future Group, an alliance of industry associations, energy organisations and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), found that 20% of Australia’s energy could come from wind energy by 2040, without affecting economic growth.
Australia has one of the world’s best wind resources, and one of the lowest renewable energy targets for a developed nation. Australia’s renewable energy target is set 10 times lower than most European nations and 20 times lower than some US states. Germany, the world wind energy leader, has almost 40 times more wind energy than Australia, yet it is 20 times smaller in size.
Wind energy is capable of reaching new heights in Australia if positive political and regulatory frameworks are implemented, removing the obstacles and market distortions that currently constrain the industry’s real potential.
I look forward to helping the industry move forward as we begin a fresh new phase of growth in Australia – a phase that could see the nation positioned as one of the world’s leaders of clean, abundant and renewable wind energy.