BY: Tracey Carpenter
It’s Time” – the slogan that ushered in Gough Whitlam’s nation building government was rekindled last week but not only in relation to the great Australian passing. Echoing Whitlam’s call to reform last week Secretary General Ban Ki Moon urged that “Leaders must act. Time is not on our side”. He was responding to a new and this time global challenge presented by the latest IPCC report on climate change. The report authored by 830 top scientists draws a line in the sand that political leaders must act now to prevent catastrophic climate change. Global CO2 emissions will have to peak by and begin falling from 2020 for the planet to remain below two degrees of warming – the scientific upper limit of what can be considered ‘safe’. That means keeping two thirds of the planets fossil fuel reserves in the ground – never to be burned. Australia’s goal however is to become the world’s largest coal exporter. We already export 400 million tonnes of coal annually sending more carbon emissions into the atmosphere than Europe’s ambitious reductions targets will prevent. The Pentagon are now treating climate change as an “immediate risk” to national security in the United States, saying that a failure to act on climate change will create violent conflicts by amplifying well-documented drivers of conflict such as poverty and economic shocks.
Instead locally we’re hearing how coal is good for humanity and fighting poverty. As world prices for coal fall and mines close the government continues to hand out tax breaks for exploration and subsidies for clean coal research all the while plotting to pull the rug out from under the renewable energy sector. Unfortunately clean coal isn’t so much in the pipeline as a pipedream. Meanwhile global investment in renewables surges making renewable energy more and more efficient and competitive.
A revolution in Australia’s domestic electricity supply is being heralded as solar PV with battery storage is now available for under the price of mains supply. A new study from investment bank UBS says solar plus storage already makes economic sense for Australian households. UBS analysis looked at the price of current solar plus storage in Australia. It estimates that such systems – which allow households to use all the electricity produced by their solar array by storing it in a box (battery) for later use – are already offering a return of capital of 10 per cent a year or more compared to buying power from the grid. It commissioned consulting firm GSES to look at systems that comprised 5kW of rooftop solar and 5kWh of battery storage. At $18,000, some of these systems were already economic. It turns out that the only programs run by fossil fuel companies to fight poverty internationally have found coal fired power too expensive and have installed solar as well.
Gas is fast becoming so expensive it is no longer cost effective to justify domestic connection or purchase of gas appliances according to the latest price data collected by the ATA (Alternative Technology Association). Find out more @bccan.org.au.
Tracey Carpenter is Chair of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network