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Australia could reach 100% renewables by 2040

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Australia could reach 100 per cent renewables as early as 2040 by adding 1.9GW of solar PV and 1.9GW of wind power capacity a year, according to one of Australia’s top renewable energy experts.

Andrew Blakers, who is the director for Sustainable Energy Systems at the Australian National University, told the Australian Solar and Energy Storage conference in Melbourne that his conservative prediction was that Australia would reach 90 per cent renewables by 2040 – just through natural attrition.

But, he added, at the rate Australia was adding, and could add, solar and wind – nearly 1GW of solar was added to rooftops alone in 2014 – and factoring in the “natural attrition” of the nation’s fossil fuel power plants, this figure could easily reach 100 per cent.wind and solar

“PV and wind could, essentially, do the whole lot fairly easily,” Blakers told the conference on Thursday. “There are no more economic constraints,” he said, with PV and wind now costing the same as new-build fossil fuels. The issue was ensuring that fossil fuel generators actually exited the market.

And as far as solar PV was concerned, Blakers said, the economics – and efficiency of the technology – would only get better.

Blakers – whose work in solar energy conversion led to the development of highly efficient PERC (passivated emitted and rear call) solar cells, which are expected to make up 40-50 per cent of total PV cell production by 2025 – said the cost of PV was expected to fall to 40c/W by 2025.

Cell efficiency, meanwhile, was expected to increase by between 20-26 per cent within the next 10 years, he said.

“The PV learning curve continues,” said Blakers, noting that the historical pattern has been that every time you double cumulative production of of solar panels, the cost comes down about 25 per cent.

“Wind and solar are fully competitive with fossil fuels, without a carbon price,” said Blakers on Thursday.

He said that solar PV and wind had reached a very important tipping point in Australia, where they had become the number one and two in new added power generation capacity.

“Renewables are well on track to push fossils fuels and nuclear out of the picture within the next 10-15 years,” he said.

In the Australian market, PV would kill the gas market “rather sooner” than it would kill the fossil-fuelled electricity market, he said, as hot water storage, heat pumps and batteries became significantly cheaper.

“The revolution will go far faster than most people think.”

On storage, Blakers – a long-time fan of pumped hydro storage – has a “different view of things”, and makes no mention of the much-hyped arrival of the Tesla battery product.

According to Blakers, most commercial-scale energy storage will be “off-river” pumped hydro – using off-the-shelf technology that would add only 1-2c/kWh to cost of PV.  

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  • Ron Horgan

    In 2040 I will be delighted to blow out 101 candles to celebrate this great result.

  • Jacob

    100% renewable is a silly goal.

    Nothing wrong with running a diesel generator 100 hours per year during the bad weather times.

    • Steve159

      Heavier-than-air flying machines were once a silly goal, along with other inventions.

      Besides the fact that diesel gen sets need maintenance, diesel particulates in the exhaust are a known carcinogen (comparable to asbestos and mustard gas, according to the WHO).

      Keeping and maintaining a diesel, anywhere within cooee of a house is a silly goal.

      • Michaelinlondon1234

        We all know the WHO are a bunch of intolerant parinoid nutters who are not particularly competent.
        Ebola epidemic they sat on there hands for 8 months before doing any thing about it.
        By the way the skin cells you are shedding are toxic to me.

        • Steve159

          “We all know …”

          I didn’t.

          Yes, we’re all individuals and we all know … well, except me, obviously.

          Blessed are the cheese-makers.

        • Steve159

          “the skin cells you are shedding”

          Nein, nyet, no none. I am robot spam bot. Leak oil occasionally. Maybe good for you, drink oil, breath diesel. Is good for you yes. .

          • Michaelinlondon1234

            Blessed are the cheese-makers….Agreed unless you work for the department of health and government bureaucrats…….
            How dare you culture a bio weapon……..Off to jail for life. To be pumped full of psycho-active chemicals.(Talk
            with the UNSW- university of New south Wales…There is a medical
            professor who loves experimenting….I am sure she has a lot of thankful clients who have been locked up in little boxes for years.)

        • Barri Mundee

          Yes and the moon is composed of green cheese, Roquefort I fact.

      • Jacob

        Diesel cruise ships are still legal. The jet engine, invented in England and still made there, was a game changer.

        Solar PV + batteries are cheaper than diesel generators anyway.

        It is the 100-400 hours per year that diesel generators still have a role to play in.

    • john

      Hint try a battery

      • Jacob

        How will the batteries get charged during torrential rain. Solar PV is fine 300-330 days per year.

        But for the remaining 35-65 days, the electricity has to be supplied somehow.

        • Steve159

          Jacob

          As Covey said, begin with the end in mind — 100% renewables, no carcinogens/ particulates. What does that scenario involve? What technologies are needed?

          Once you start asking those sorts of questions, original ideas might ‘throng upon you’ as Sir Walter Scott found (by adopting certain practices).

          E.g. wind, mini hydro, geothermal, or just bigger batteries (to last a week of rain). That said, for convenience a diesel gen set might be easiest solution, but having a goal of 100% is no different to any inventor or explorer or entrepreneur having his/her goals of going beyond the possible, or even just simply going beyond average (unimaginative) thinkers.

          • Jacob

            The first step is to get 90% clean renewable energy.

            Then we can think about whether or not we want oversized batteries for the 100-400 hours per year of bad weather.

          • Steve159

            You’re welcome to your limited thinking — probably you have a vested interest in diesels?

            Meanwhile, others with grit and imagination will be focusing on their ideal of 100%, much like the Apollo astronauts, who while circling the moon (your 90%), were very intent on achieving 100% (landing and returning).

            Which they did. If they listened to you, they’d still be circling the moon.

          • Jacob

            Interesting analogy. Going the the moon was not profitable.

            40% of the grid only gets used 100-400 hours per year.

            So I guess we should all have batteries that are 40% oversized.

          • Steve159

            Irrelevant. They had a goal. They achieved it.

            Same for 100% renewables. What has profit got to do with anything — last time you filled your car with fuel, what was the profit? Rubbish argument.

            As for 40% oversized, yet again, irrelevant. Your computer screen, or your television is probably 500% oversized to what is needed to see a picture/movie. You don’t need that large screen. Similarly with batteries 100, 200, 300% oversized, they could be used for additional uses beyond normal home usage.

            It seems your limited thinking knows no bounds (irony intended).

          • Steve159

            Not to mention modern motor vehicles 200 to 300% “oversized” insofar as their maximum speed compared to national speed limits is concerned.

            In fact, why not aim for 200% oversized capacity. See what interesting uses people put all that spare power to.

            Maybe if 300% oversized, the spare power could be used to produce hydrogen (for hydrogen fuel cells) … or .. or ..

            Maybe with 500% the spare power could obsolete all nuclear, coal and gas stations by … you know, the week after.

          • Jacob

            When I filled up my car with petrol the petrol station made a profit.

            Hell, the refinery made a profit, the ship made a profit, the trucking firm that transported the petrol to the petrol station made a profit. Even the mob who extracted the oil from the ground made a profit.

          • Steve159

            And those who supply the “40% oversized” batteries will be making a profit (or losses, to buy market share).

            So, your point is … irrelevant, for those who seek to install their 40% oversized batteries for the simple reason of wishing to be independent of the grid, even if not cost-justifiable..

            if you applied your simplistic arithmetic to new technologies, there’d be no early adopters. None. Zero. Ziltch.

            100% renewables is an admirable, if somewhat conservative goal. 150% would be better, far more fun, challenging.

          • Jacob

            Goal might be keyword for banning other technologies.

            The now NZ opposition decided to ban the construction of new fossil fuel power stations. They lost the election.

            We have an oversized gold-plated grid, that is why power is so costly. If you switch to oversized batteries, that is just replicating the overpriced electricity situation.

            Maybe we could have switching of batteries between the northern hemisphere and the southern every summer.

            So 40% of the batteries here would be sent to the north in May to be used in the northern hemisphere summer.

          • Steve159

            ” If you switch to oversized batteries, that is just replicating the overpriced electricity situation.”

            That is what is called a non sequitur — the fact a monopoly supplier (transgrid) rorted the system has no relation to free-market supply of batteries. None at all.

            “Oversized batteries” might one day accompany free of charge your breakfast cereal pack of cornflakes.

            It is somewhat interesting to observe that every reply of yours involves either explicit or implicit limitations that are all past-based estimates. None of your limited-projections are creative, or imaginative.

            as for your “ban the construction of new fossil fuel power stations.”

            If conservative governments weren’t subsiding coal-fired power, solar and especially wind is, right now, cheaper than new coal-fired power facilities.

            So I don’t understand your point — other than to telegraph that you’re a conservative voter, in favour of subsidising the big polluters (and subsequent harm to health from coal-fired power pollution).

          • Jacob

            Whoa.

            Diesel causes cancer. And look how polluted cities in Asia are.

            Victoria has the most polluting power station in the OECD.

            I absolutely want it shut down this year.

            And we absolutely need to build High Speed Rail to cut oil imports and pollution caused by aircraft.

            Replacing coal power stations with solar PV and CSP is great and we need to do it soon.

        • john

          You of course are joking yes I have a smile 🙂

        • david_fta

          “How will the batteries get charged during torrential rain [… ?]”
          Err, how about a stationary exercise cycle with generator as load recharging your home’s batteries?

    • Gary

      Biogas and Biodiesel are renewable.

  • Ken Dyer

    100% renewables could be reached even faster. There is a lot of pressure on local government to obtain carbon neutrality, and to think about revenue coming from areas apart from property, the subject of a rate capping exercise in Victoria.

    The Sunshine Coast is leading the way in establishing renewable energy in its Region.

    http://www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au/sitePage.cfm?code=solar-farm

    The profit from solar energy comes almost exclusively from capital expenditure, and local government is in a unique position to attract capital grants to construct solar farms ( on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria there is an extensive geothermal resource also), that thereafter will prove profits to a council’s residents at minimal operating cost. Absolute no brainer.

    Meanwhile, the Federal Government has $5.5 billion dollars in the kitty to pay out about a quarter of the worst fossil fuel(coal) power generators.

  • Michaelinlondon1234

    I love it when xxxx like this start daydreaming about there version of Utopia.
    Throw this in to your calculations.
    In history we had the year with out summer in 1816….
    Then we had the beginning of the Ice ages….Similar cause..Major volcanic activity. Thought to have been caused by Comet impact???.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_age.
    We need at least a 10% surplus for unusual events in the standard model which you have not accounted for..
    How does this plug in to your utopian model.
    I can see justification for improving the efficiencies of Nuclear reactors for energy output.
    I can see the need for keeping Coal and oil fired plant as working museum pieces….Until we have fully developed.

    I like solar..But.

    • john

      I am not sure where you are getting your info from but as for nuclear have a look at the cost for the new plant in England it is way over budget and is to get a price upwards of $135 a MwH not exactly a good look for your industry.

      We are yes supposed to be going into a ice age however if you plug your self into how the earth is kept above zero degree Celsius it is because of the GHG effect.

      Now this may be news to you but with out GHG we would be at 0c temp and the planet would be rendered with no life except some microbes.

      Go have a look at the science ok and think for a nono second we are now above the historical record for CO2 which creates our nice climate for over 800,000 years the whole history of mankind.

      http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/history.html

      Now I think it is of some disquiet that we are heading to a situation that is not exactly what this species has had think seriously about it.

    • Steve159

      @Michaelinlondon1234

      “I love it when xxxx like this start daydreaming about there version of Utopia.”

      Utopia??????????? wtf

      Here’s a simple question for you. In the future, what do you want — do you want dirty polluting energy sources, or clean ones?

      Now, how you answer will involve one of two alternatives (or both)

      1. You have a vested interest in maintaining dirty, polluting energy sources (includes nuclear).

      2. You lack any imagination, determination, entrepreneurial creativity to help make a clean-energy future a reality.

      Choose one, or both. Simple.

      If the former, add “greedy selfish git” to your CV.

      If the latter, go away, stop interfering with those who ARE helping to create said clean-energy future.

      • Michaelinlondon1234

        You must be very young. Or do you lack general world history knowledge?
        London dumps 23 million litres of untreated sewage in to the Thames every year……Is this the modern future you talk about?
        They talk about building a new runway in Heathrow. To add to the millions of cubic meters of burnt fuel being dumped on our heads each year.
        This is a group of peoples idea of Utopia.
        Are there signs it is changing…Yes.
        I am a realist though.
        The first Utility scale photoelectric plant in Australia was built using Cadmium……Think about the fun of recycling that and while you do so. The company selling the cells was sitting on research that could have given a hundred percent increase on output. and had done so for years.
        We have known how to make 35% efficiency cells for over a decade.
        Try buying anything over 15% efficiency and you will pay a hefty premium.
        For the home buyer you will be lucky to get near 18%
        I thought we would have bases on the moon by the beginning of the 21st century. Not acting like rock apes dropping million dollar bombs on peoples heads. A lot of whom are just subsistence farmers.
        Even hunter gatherers in the African deserts are more civilised than our city City dwelling intolerant control freak society..
        https://youtu.be/Ig8b9X1Msdo

        • Steve159

          I asked a simple question (what do you want — a dirty, polluting energy source, or clean-energy future), which you have avoided answering.

          So I’ll assume both – vested interest in dirty polluting energy sources AND you’ve never had an original, or creative thought in your life, or worked to achieve anything original or substantial.

          • Michaelinlondon1234

            simple question? A simple question is do I like almonds. Yes.
            simple question is not trying to sum up all human activity in to 2 camps of good or bad.
            The human body can be energy consuming and energy source. Do I like the human body? It has its good points and bad.Same applies with what we do with it.
            Have we turned the earth in to a mini sun yet? I think it is a work in progress.
            I have made things that will last thousands of years and things that last minutes. And I am sure you have to..

          • Steve159

            “simple question? A simple question is do I like almonds”
            wt ..?

            And “Do I like the human body?”

            Who said anything about liking?

            You’ll have to add “intellectually incompetent” to your CV.

            What do you want? is a simple question. You have avoided the question because it seems three facets are at play (vested interest, no imagination, mentally incompetent).

            That said, my money’s on vested interest which motivates you to respond with stupidity, not discerning the difference between ‘want’ and like. Some people, when in pain due to a terminal illness, “want” death (to be euthanized) which is not suggesting they f&*king like it.

          • Michaelinlondon1234

            You really need to work on your abuse ….To repetitive and not creative enough.

          • Steve159

            Definitely intellectually incompetent, “Too repetitive…”

            It’s not abuse, it’s simple, rudimentary analysis of your avoidance of a simple question.

            Failing to share what it is you want (dirty polluting energy sources, or clean-energy future), leads irrevocably to those conclusions.

          • Michaelinlondon1234

            I prefer Black Adder thanks. At least he had rats and mud.

          • Michaelinlondon1234

            dirty polluting energy sources. Well since you asked I agree we should get rid of the worst polluters. Starting with humanity. I second you in agitating for a nuclear winter.
            I have already written some nice pieces about using shaped charges to upset the earth’s core causing plates to shift.

    • david_fta

      “Then we had the beginning of the Ice ages….Similar cause..Major volcanic activity “… horseshit. Actually due to orbital variation (Milankovitch cycles), allowing icesheets to start multiyear accumulation on Arctic (Siberia, N Canada) lands, which increased earth albedo sufficiently to allow ocean surface to cool enough to start dissolving CO2 from atmosphere. Once atmospheric CO2 falls below 240 ppm, glaciation becomes likely.

      Ref Tzedakis et al, “Determining the natural length of the current interglacial”, Nature Geoscience 5, 138–141 (2012) doi:10.1038/ngeo1358

  • john

    The cost curve for PV is down and has been down from the start of manufacture with ever increasing efficiency.
    The situation for wind generation is low price per install every year.
    The common factor for each is zero energy cost.