Thursday, November 02, 2006

John Howard misleads Australians about base-load solar power

by Elliot K - Perth Indymedia 2006-10-27 12:45 AM +0800

Thursday, 26 October 2006: Prime Minister John Howard is deliberately misleading the community about the potential of solar power to address climate change, say the Greens.

The coal industry is heavily subsidised and it seems the PM's nuclear power push is not in any way a solution...

Public concern over global warming has made a great leap forward in recent months.

On a per capita basis, Australia is the world's biggest generator of greenhouse gases.

This week the Prime Minister annouced $420 million solar power project, which is expected to pump electricity into the national grid - equivalent to the annual needs of 45,000 homes, with zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite this, he said "the base load power is only going to be generated using fossil fuel or, in the long run, nuclear. While I see solar as being part of the solution, it's a solution at the periphery rather than at the centre."

Greens energy spokesperson Senator Christine Milne says Prime Minister Howard was wrong to claim that solar power will not be able to provide base-load power in the way that coal and nuclear can.

"Solar power can provide base-load power. It already does in California, where a base-load solar station has been operating for 20 years," Senator Milne said.

"If the government would get behind solar in the way it is backing geosequestration for coal-fired power then solar power's potential in Australia would be realised sooner, rather than later."

The government have been accused of propping up the Coal industry with substantial subsidies and incentives. In November 2000, a Senate inquiry report estimated direct fossil fuel subsidies at $2 billion per year, but found an additional $4 billion in indirect subsidies such as ‘tax incentives, startup grants, preferential purchasing agreements for oil, and biased market structures’ (ECITA References Committee, 2000, p.xxxvi).

Senator Milne suggested Prime Minister Howard read the recent report commissioned by the Cooperative Research Centre for Coal - which suggests that solar technoloy is capable of meeting the requirements of major base-load power and rapidly expanding off-grid markets.

The report also concludes that an area of 35 x 35 kilometres could produce Australia's entire current power demand, and the cost of this electricity equal to coal-fired electricity by 2013.

"Concentrating solar thermal technologies are just one of several renewable electricity technologies that are ready for commercialisation in Australia," said Senator Milne.

"Wind, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, geothermal, biofuels - these are not technologies of the future, they are ready today and underpin the booming renewables industry in Europe, the USA, Japan and China."

"There is no technical reason why Australia could not produce a very high proportion of its electricity from renewable sources, backed up by natural gas as a transitional fuel. All that is lacking is political will."

=A Drop In The Ocean==
ACF Executive Director Don Henry says the Federal Government’s solar funding, while welcome, is a drop in the ocean compared with its funding of activities that increase greenhouse pollution and exacerbate global warming.

"We desperately need strong laws and targets that require big polluters to cut emissions. An effective climate change policy makes polluters pay and gives long term incentives to invest in clean energy," Mr Henry said.

"An effective policy sets mandatory standards to reduce energy waste and increase efficiency. An effective policy leads by example in regional and global forums and starts with ratifying the Kyoto Protocol."

Whilst the Uranium industry appears to drive John Howard's push for Nuclear Power in Australia, Professor Ian Lowe AO, President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, has said the economics don't stack up.

"The real cost of nuclear electricity is certainly more than for wind power, energy from bio-wastes and some forms of solar energy," he said in 2005. "The only clean energy is renewable energy. It is safe, plentiful and lasts forever. It is better environmentally, economically and socially.

He says renewable energy will take us toward a sustainable future, whereas nuclear energy would be a decisive step in the wrong direction, producing serious environmental and social problems for little benefit.

Professor Lowe says to avoid dangerous further changes to our climate, we need to act now. "We should make a commitment to the sensible alternatives that produce sustainable cost-effective reductions in greenhouse pollution: wind power, solar water heating, energy efficiency, gas and energy from organic matter."

"As people said back in the 1970s, if nuclear is the answer it must have been a pretty silly question!"


COAL - Coal consumption in Australia and New Zealand increases by an average of 1.4 percent per year. With substantial coal reserves, Coal-fired power plants supply over 70 percent of Australia's total electricity generation.


International Energy Outlook 2006
[PDF] Subsidies that Encourage Fossil Fuel Use in Australia
Is nuclear power part of Australia’s global warming solutions? - ACF
Coal is the future, Howard tells Australians
Subsidy Analysis on Geographic Regions

Cooperative Research for Coal in Sustainable Development

Solar power limited, Howard says

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