Well, this was a speech that you don’t get to hear from a government leader in Australia.
California governor Jerry Brown opened the Intersolar conference in San Francisco on Monday night with a rousing speech that had most Australians in the audience lamenting the fact that they would not hear the like from any mainstream Australian political leaders, least of all from the current collection of state premiers.
Brown promised to sweep aside all and any obstacles to meeting the state’s ambitious renewable energy targets, and to create a “renewable, sustainable solar America, and a solar world.”
Brown is overseeing a series of clean energy policies which include a 33 per cent renewable energy target by 2020, a one million roofs solar program, a storage procurement act that could target up to 4,000MW of storage by 2020, and a policy that supports “self-generation”. The state – the world’s eighth biggest economy – also has a carbon price that began at the start of the year.
Many expect the California legislature to push even harder, with one bill recently submitted that calls for the renewable target to be lifted to 50 per cent. Brown did not indicate if he supported that measure, but he clearly saw solar, and other renewables, as critically important.
“We have got to find a step by step movement towards the goal, and that goal is an energy system totally compatible with the rules of nature,” Brown told the audience.
“We need to take the future and bring it forward. We’ve got to find a way to market the very idea of solar energy, to produce energy without filling up our atmosphere with methane, Co2 and and all the pollutants that are going to reshape our planet.
“Energy is one of the pillars of our civilization, and if we wait for peak oil to save us, we’re done. We’ve got plenty of oil. One Stanford (University) professor told me our problem with oil is not a case of too little too late, it is a case of too much too soon.”
“Solar is a big piece in the equation. There is plenty of sun out there to take care of our energy. It’s going to take time, technology and R&D, and it is going to take storage. And we just can’t rely on sunlight, we’ve got to bottle it. That’s the metaphor for storage.”
Brown said the science on climate change was pretty clear, but lamented the slow and “feeble” response to the problem by most other states, and most other countries, with the possible exception of Germany.
“Most countries are not stepping up to the plate,” he said. “There is a complete disproportion between the knowledge about and the magnitude of climate change and what it will do to our way of life, and our response to it. The response is feeble compared to the challenge. And we’ve got to wake up to that.
“One problem is that climate change is not news because it is too slow. News is fast. There’s a lot of other stuff going on that gets us excited. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get excited by a lot of trivial tings, why not if it can distract you from other trivial things which might be more irritating.
“But we’ve got to thing about what’s important, it’s not just fun, and toys and entertainment and shopping. This is serious stuff that men and women in the world have to deal with.
“We have got to overcome the inertia, blindness and silliness that is standing in the way of our obvious destiny and future, stopping us to get to our destination, which is renewable, sustainable solar America, and a solar world.”
As I said earlier, the Australians in the audience tried to imagine Campbell Newman, Barry O’Farrell, or Tony Abbott making such a speech. Not a chance. When the country’s likely future energy minister addressed a similar gathering in Australia last year, his message was that wind and solar were not much good. In Australia the only politicians that would make (and do make) a similar speech are The Greens, and are ridiculed for it.