Flannery says threshold crossed in renewables

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Flannery says it is clear wind and solar will be cheapest forms of energy by 2030.

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Climate Change Commissioner Tim Flannery says Australia is doing well in renewable energy, but could do  much more.

In the latest report, the commission says it is clear that solar and wind will be the cheapest forms of energy by 2030 – echoing the conclusions of the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economic, and the country could soon be powered by renewables.

“What we can now see is the emerging inevitability that renewables are going to be running the economy at some point in the future,” Flannery told ABC radio in an interview. “I don’t think it’s been widely appreciated. You talk to people in government and industry and many people on the street, those facts really haven’t started to sink in.”

Flannery noted that Australia installed more solar panels than any other country last year (not quite true, Japan tipped us on the small rooftop section), and the cost of the energy had declined significantly which meant that deployment would increase significantly.

He also said Australians like renewables because in the case of solar it gives people some independence. “You are not beholden to a system that just puts the costs up every year; you’re in control of your own future that way,” he said. “And in regional communities wherever we go we see you know the arguments put to us that those regional communities spend millions of dollars every year which – money that just goes out of the economy for energy, electricity and so forth.

“If they had some local infrastructure they’d be creating jobs and keeping the money in the community, which would benefit those local communities tremendously.”

The Generating a Renewable Australia report to be launched on Monday in Sydney by Professor Flannery and fellow author, Climate commissioner Professor Veena Sahajwalla, reiterates that global carbon dioxide emissions will need to be near zero by 2050 to ensure a two-thirds chance of keeping the planet’s average temperature less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, The Age reported.

Flannery said this was the tipping point beyond which more extreme weather events and rising sea levels would become unmanageable.

The report focused on electricity generation, Australia’s largest source of greenhouse gas, which accounts for 35 per cent of emissions. About-three quarters of the country’s electricity is generated by coal.

”We saw more money invested in 2011 in clean technologies than in fossil fuel,” Flannery said. ”So we’ve crossed the threshold. We need to prepare ourselves for a very different energy grid in future.”

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