Can Australia run on renewable energy?
Renewable energies in Australia
Australia: general conditions
With an area of over 7 million square kilometers, Australia offers a wide variety of conditions for many different types of use of renewable energies. Incidentally, with this area, Australia is the sixth largest country in the world. Due to the area there are also all possible climatic conditions. The extreme north can be called tropical. In terms of area, however, the proportion of the total area of Australia is rather small. In contrast, large parts of Australia (the center) are covered by deserts. This already indicates the temperatures, which can often exceed 40 degrees in the Australian summer. Summer in Australia lasts from November to April.
In Australia people have been thinking about the energy supply for several years. The energy supply is also always a reason for political discussions. Although Australia does not have a single nuclear power plant, it is the third largest uranium exporter in the world. It is precisely this uranium mining in some areas that is causing heated discussions in Australia. These discussions concern the general question of the use of atomic energy and also the environmental degradation associated with uranium mining.
Traditionally, electricity generation from coal plays a very important role. About 80 percent of Australia's electricity is currently generated by coal-fired power plants. The need for coal can be covered by the country's own resources. Gas and hydropower plants are mainly responsible for the rest of the electricity generation. Due to the high percentage of coal-fired power plants, carbon dioxide emissions are very high.
Renewable Energy Potential in Australia
Australia is one of the countries with the highest solar radiation in the world. Australia is accordingly well suited for the use of solar energy. For example, Australia is much better suited than Germany for using this form of energy. Unfortunately, solar energy still plays a relatively minor role in electricity generation. Due to the large area and the sometimes very remote settlements, so-called island systems play a major role in Australia. Connecting all settlements and outposts to a power grid would simply be too expensive. In some cases, several kilometers of power line would have to be built for just one house. This is why the island systems play such a big role in Australia. This is especially true for the very remote desert regions of Australia. Due to the favorable conditions, solar energy has great potential.
Wind energy also has great potential in Australia. This applies, for example, to the windy coastal regions.
Current developments in renewable energies in Australia
Australia has introduced an energy tax or CO2 tax that provides for around 23 Australian dollars for every ton of carbon dioxide. The country's largest CO2 producers in the energy supply, mining, transport and industry sectors will have to pay this amount from July 1, 2012. This means that the amount is far above that in the EU.
The introduction of this carbon tax has sparked many protests in Australia. Several thousand people took to the streets in Sydney and protested against the new levy. They fear a further increase in the cost of living in their country. Several hundred companies down under are affected by the levy. The effects of the introduction of this tax are correspondingly large.
Politically, the levy is also extremely controversial. While environmental organizations are largely satisfied with the new tax, the liberal party in particular criticizes the introduction of the CO2 tax. At the moment, however, the Liberal Party is in the opposition. But if there should be a change of power, the CO2 tax will be put to the test again. According to current statements by the Liberals, the CO2 tax could then be abolished again.
At the end of 2011, the share of green electricity was already 9.6 percent. With this new levy, there is now a chance that this share can increase. The correct use of the income from the CO2 tax is of course a basic requirement. In the first step, however, the Australian industry is sensitized to the costs of CO2 emissions, i.e. it is made clear to companies that CO2 costs something.
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