Increasing the proportion of Renewable Energy in Australia’s Energy Mix
Background to the topic and its significance
Renewable energy is an umbrella term that refers to different types of energy that is collected from renewable sources that can be replenished naturally. This type of energy can include solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy, hydroelectric energy, geothermal energy and bio-energy (Weitemeyer et al. 2015, pp.14-20). Renewable energy is important for the sustainability of the environment since it allows extraction of energy from renewable resources and therefore prevents the exploitation and depletion of the non-renewable energy sources (such as fossil fuels) and helps to reduce pollutions caused by the usage of nonrenewable energy (Owusu and Asumadu-Sarkodie 2016, p.1167990). Due to this, developed countries around the world have set up targets for renewable energy use in order to mitigate the impact of the global greenhouse gas emissions. The Australian government targets to produce 23.5% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020 by increasing the use of solar, wind, tidal and hydroelectric power (Hua et al. 2016, pp.1044-1051).
The ‘wicked problem’
Usage of non renewable energy have resulted in massive production of greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide which have caused significant impact on the global climate, causing an increase in the average global temperature, gradual melting of the polar ice caps, rise in sea levels and increase in the incidence of erratic weather patterns and climatic catastrophes (Schlesinger 2017, pp.800-817).
Relevant terms and concepts
Global warming, renewable energy, non renewable energy
Aim/purpose of the essay
The purpose of the essay is to study the various strategies that can allow Australia to increase the utilization of renewable energy in Australia in order to meet the national renewable energy target as well as pave the way for other developed countries to increase their renewable energy utilization.
Plan/organization of the essay
In the essay, the various sources of renewable energy would be discussed along with how to utilize them effectively in Australia to offset the demand for non renewable energy and to minimize the emissions of greenhouse gases.
In order to ensure sustainability of energy resources as well as the global environment, usage of renewable and clean sources of energy is a vital aspect. This energy not only is less polluting to the environment, but also helps to reduce dependency on conventional sources of fuel like the fossil fuels which are more polluting to the environment (Owusu and Asumadu-Sarkodie 2016, p.1167990). Discussed below are the various strategies that can be tossed to reduce the use of nonrenewable energy and increase the use of renewable energy in Australia’s energy mix and thus achieve the national renewable energy target:
Solar energy can be considered to be one of the cleanest forms of renewable energy source that harnesses the radiant energy of the sun using technologies such as photovoltaic cells and solar heaters that can be used to convert the radiant energy into electrical or thermal energy for day to day usage. Studies show that the earth receives a total of almost 50,000 Exajoules (EJ) of solar energy every year which far exceeds the global energy consumption (Lewis 2016, pp.403-415). This abundant source of energy can therefore be a perfect solution to meet rapidly growing energy needs and reducing the dependency on nonrenewable energy. Usage of solar panels and solar farms can help to generate large amount (about trillions of watts of energy, enough to power thousands of households and even factories (Tsalikis and Martinopoulos 2015, pp.743-756). Moreover, technologies such as solar powered hydrogen fuel cells can also increase the efficiency of solar power usage and its storage thereby helping to significantly offset the usage of fossil fuels (O'hayre et al. 2016).
This is another clean source of renewable energy which is not associated with greenhouse emissions. Wind energy can be harnessed through wind turbines that can convert the kinetic energy of wind to mechanical energy and generators can then convert the mechanical energy to electrical energy (Yaramasu et al. 2015, pp.740-788). Currently about 5.9% of Australia’s electrical energy is produced from wind energy creating more than 48000 megawatts of electricity every year (Katsigiannis and Stavrakakis 2014, pp.230-236). Thus, developing more wind farms across Australia can help to harness more wind energy, especially around the coastal regions and thus help to increase the use of renewable energy in the energy mix of the country.
Tidal energy utilizes the force of the oceanic tides and tidal waves to harness energy or electricity. The movement of tidal water is used to rotate turbines installed in the inter tidal zones thereby converting the kinetic energy of the water to mechanical energy and then convert the mechanical energy to electrical energy using motors (Lewis et al. 2015, pp.403-415). The extensive coastline of Australia provides a unique opportunity for harnessing its power as an alternate as well as inexhaustible energy source for the entire country (Penesis et al. 2018, p. 507). Moreover, since this form of energy does not involve any emissions, it can help to significantly reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases and thus the national emission levels. Increasing the number of tidal power projects across the coastlines of Australia and Tasmania can help to increase the percentage of renewable energy use in the country (Green et al. 2017).
Hydroelectricity has been considered to be a significant source of renewable energy and generation of electricity for several decades. The potential energy of water falling from a height is used to move turbines and thereby produce electricity (Solarin et al. 2017, pp.1578-1587). However, development of hydroelectric projects can often be very expensive as it involves extensive infrastructure to store water and direct it over the turbines (Gleick 2017). Approximately 8% of Australia’s electricity is produced from hydroelectricity, which accounts for 60% of all renewable energy utilization with the Snowy Mountain Hydro electric station being the largest producer of hydroelectricity in the country (Azad et al. 2014, p.19). To increase the generation of hydroelectricity, natural waterfalls can be utilized to create more hydel-power projects. Moreover, increasing the capacity of the existing hydro eclectic power plants can also help to generate more hydroelectricity and thereby increase the proportion of renewable energy resources (Blakers and Stocks 2017, pp.471-482).
Geothermal energy uses the heat energy from Earth. It is a clean and sustainable energy source due to the abundant amount of heat generated from various geothermal vents such as hot water springs and geothermal vents (Lund and Boyd 2016, pp.66-93). This type of energy is extensively used in countries such as Iceland, supporting 30% of the country’s electricity production and 87% of the domestic hot water requirements (Shortall and Kharrazi 2017, pp.101-109). Studies have shown that in Australia, hot granites are found in several locations across the country that has a good potential for the harnessing of geothermal energy. These ‘hot rocks’ have been estimated to have the capacity to provide 6.9% of the country’s energy requirement and can be a significant contributor of electricity for the next 450 years (Bahadori et al. 2015, p.1469). Parts of central Tasmania has been identified to be a promising site for harnessing geothermal energy that can help to generate about 300 megawatts of electricity and support almost 25% of the electricity needs of Tasmania (Smith 2016, p.6).
Biofuels refers to fuels developed using biological process such as aerobic digestion of organic matter. This type of fuel can be created from various types of organic waste such as animal dung as well plant and animal parts to create biogas or biodiesel (Rasmussen et al. 2016, pp.91-102). Biofuel can also include ethanol produced from the process of fermentation or anaerobic digestion and has a high calorific value (Wang et al. 2017, p.1370). Waste collected from farms and livestock industries can be collected in specialized tanks where it can be digested to create bio gas (Rasmussen et al. 2016, pp.91-102). Biodiesel can also be created from animal fats, vegetable oil and algae and has similar properties like diesel and therefore can be used in automobiles. This form of diesel is less polluting and has a high flash point making it ideal for combustion engines (Talebi et al. 2014, pp.55-57).
Nuclear energy utilizes nuclear fission reaction to generate heat and therefore produce electricity. The heat produced from the nuclear reactors by controlled nuclear reaction is used to convert water to superheated steam and create electricity. Nuclear energy is also provides a clean source of energy but has a significant hazard related to the disposal of radioactive waste (Omri et al. 2015, pp.1012-1022). Moreover, the nuclear reactors also impose radiation hazards due to nuclear meltdowns that can be caused due to accidents, as seen in the cases of Chernobyl (due to explosion) or Fukushima (due to a tsunami) (Steinhauser et al. 2014, pp.800-817). The nuclear energy can significantly offset the use of fossil fuels and has the potential to create thousands of terawatts of electricity. Australia has about 33% of the world’s uranium deposit providing a significant source of nuclear energy (Bird et al. 2014, pp.644-653). Developing nuclear power plants can help to increase the production of nuclear energy and thus increase the utilization of renewable energy resource.
In addition to the renewable energy sources described above, solid waste can also be used as an alternative fuel source. Due to the abundance of solid waste (like Municipal Solid Waste) produced every day from human activities, conversion of waste to energy is an ideal strategy to produce energy as well as manage solid waste (Brunner and Rechberger 2015, pp.3-12). Solid waste such as food waste, paper, cardboards and plastic waste can be converted into a usable form of fuel through processes such as pyrolysis, gasification, and combustion and plasma arc gasification. This strategy can also help to reduce the solid waste from entering the landfills, offset the use of conventional fuels and help in the effective management of the solid waste. However, the process of creating fuel from waste can cause generation of several pollutants such as dioxins and mercury (Kiran et al. 2014, pp.389-399).
Subsidizing renewable energy use:
The government can also provide subsidies on renewable energy sources in order to promote its utilization. Subsidizing the costs of solar panels can help more house owners to install them at their homes, while subsidizing the development of solar farms and wind farms can help to generate power for remote communities thereby supporting an increase in the use of clean and renewable energy source. Moreover, investing in the development of geothermal energy plants can help to harness the thermal energy of the ‘hot rocks’ from various parts of Australia and thus increase the production of renewable energy in the country (Simpson and Clifton 2016, pp.262-273).
Implementing Pollution Tax:
Industries are one of the biggest sources of pollutants due to the significant use of fossil fuels and nonrenewable energy. In Australia, transport industry contributes to 13.9% of greenhouse gas emissions, 5.4% from industrial processes, 51.4% stationary energy sources and 15.2% for agricultural industry (abs.gov.au 2018). Implementing pollution tax could compel the industries to cut down their emissions by levying hefty tax for industries that significantly contributes to the national greenhouse gas emissions. This can also foster the utilization of less polluting energy sources such as renewable and clean energy sources thereby helping to increase their use (Kristensen 2015, pp.195-201).
Increasing the usage of electrical vehicles:
In Australia, 13.9% of the total greenhouse emission is due to transportation vehicles, most of which relies on traditional combustion engines that require fossil fuels (abs.gov.au 2018). However, electricity driven cars can help to reduce the usage of the fossil fuels and minimize the emissions of greenhouse gases. By supporting the usage of electricity driven vehicles and hybrid vehicles that can use both electricity and conventional fuels can also be helpful to offset the dependency on fossil fuels. Building charging stations at the petrol pumps can help in the usage of the electricity driven cars across the country and thus also help to reduce the emission levels. Also providing subsidies on electric cars can further encourage the people to use of these vehicles and thus help to increase the use of renewable energy (Ferrero et al. 2016, pp.450-459).
Renewable energy is an important form of energy that is developed from renewable resources and is generally less polluting compared to non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels. Using renewable energy not only helps to reduce the levels of emissions of greenhouse emissions, but also helps to conserve the limited amount of fossil fuels in the earth’s reserve. Since the use of fossil fuels have steadily caused an increase in air pollution and has been considered to be a key contributor to the global climatic change, using renewable and clean energy is a significant strategy to mitigate and reduce the emissions and thus prevent further impact on the environment. Various types of energy sources (such as solar, wind, tidal, hydroelectric, geothermal and nuclear) can be used to provide a clean energy source and increase the usage of renewable energy in Australia’s energy mix. Additionally, bio-fuels and solid organic waste can also be used to generate waste which can help to manage waste more effectively. The government can also provide subsidies for different renewable energy technologies (like solar or wind energy) to support an increase in its domestic use and implement pollution tax to support the reduction of pollution from industries. Increasing the number of electric cars can additionally help to reduce vehicular emission of greenhouse gases and increase the usage of renewable energy.
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