Green Markets

EWN Publishing

New book by sustainable energy expert advocates biomass solutioon to produce 30 per cent of current energy needs

Posted by gmarkets on 8 October, 2007

Neither “clean coal” nor the construc­tion of nuclear energy plants was a necessary or sufficient answer to Australia’s climate chal­lenge, and Dr Mark Diesendorf of UNSW’s Institute of Environmental Studies believed we were losing precious time investing in these two options when much safer options were available, said professor Bob Douglas in The Canberra Times (6/10/2007, p. B18). Investment in sustainable technologies: On the issue of nuclear energy, Diesendorf disagreed firmly with James Lovelock that it was either a bridging solution or that its inherent risks were justified. The answer, he said, must be to invest in a portfolio of now proven and rapidly advancing sustainable technologies that, together, could provide the requisite combination of base-load and peak-load energy. Coal-fired power plants must be phased out and natural gas could be an effective, cleaner, bridging resource as we built up wind, solar thermal, photovoltaic and biomass.

Australia could be relegated: Diesendorf was an expert on wind energy. He believed wind had the potential to provide 13 per cent of global electricity demand by 2020 and 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity within three to four decades. He argued that we had the capacity to reap considerable climate and employment benefits from its orderly develop­ment, but that the deliberate misinformation that was being propagated by commercial and NIMBY interests could relegate Australia to the role of a client country, purchasing the technology from overseas that we could develop here ourselves.

Bio alternatives: Diesendorf claimed that biomass from existing agricultural residues, supplemented by plantations of oil mallee, could generate about 30 per cent of Australia’s current electricity use and that this could be increased significantly by plantation forest residues that would not compete with existing food production. He suggested the oil mallee plantations could also assist in rehabili­tation of degraded agricultural land. Bio-energy, however, presented both threats and opportunities, and Diesendorf thought we needed to plan this part of the energy portfolio very carefully.

Solar energy available now: Solar energy could now provide hot water, cost effectively, for the vast majority of Australian households. Further, the potential scale of application of energy generated by photovoltaic cell installation was enormous. But until there were adequate mandated renewable energy targets and a proper policy on carbon-trading and caps, the more expensive solar option would not realise its potential. For the more technically and economi­cally literate reader, there were helpful appendices to illuminate these matters further.

Market alone will not find solution:The climate change challenge was more urgent and the renewable solutions more complex and attractive than our leaders would have us believe, Douglas wrote. The market by itself would not solve this problem. Nor would politicians who depended on the largesse of entrenched energy interests for electoral funds. An informed and activated electorate which understood the available range of options was our best hope for a viable solution, said Douglas.

Reference: Professor Bob Douglas is chair of Australia 21 http://www.australia21.org.au) and convenor of SEE-Change ACT http://www.see-change.org.au)

The Canberra Times, 6/10/2007, p. B18

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