Australian Sustainable Energy Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan

> A ten year roadmap for 100% renewable energy
> Baseload energy supplied by renewable sources
> Affordable at $8 per household per week


Twenty-eight billion is a big number. Measured in tonnes it
is a very heavy load. This figure is the amount of sediment
eroded each year from all our mountains and carried by all
our rivers to all our seas. And it is the amount of carbon
dioxide (CO2) we pump into the atmosphere each year from
burning fossil fuels globally – enough to cover Australia in
a blanket two metres thick. In dollars, it is just a little more
than the extra annual investment needed to reconfigure
Australia’s stationary energy system to have zero emissions
in just 10 years time.

Each year the 28 billion tonnes of CO2 we make induces
heating. The oceans are now heating at the phenomenal
rate of 300 trillion watts. In frighteningly human terms that
is equivalent to detonating five Hiroshima sized A-bombs
every second, every day of every year.

To make 28 billion tonnes of CO2 we dig 7 billion tonnes
of coal and suck countless gallons of oil and gas from the
ground. In total we already excavate more rock from the
Earth than nature does. With peak oil rapidly approaching, if
not passed, BP’s Deepwater Horizon catastrophe attests to
the huge risks entailed in maintaining production.
The rate we consume energy to emit that CO2 is 16 trillion
watts. That is already about 1/3 of the energy released by
plate tectonics – the process that pushes continents around
the globe over geological time making mountains and
earthquakes as it goes. On current growth trajectories we
are set to surpass this amount of energy by 2060.
Each year we are adding a bit under 1% to the atmospheric
CO2 load, enhancing the greenhouse effect by a small
fraction of a percent. By trapping just a tiny extra fraction
of the incoming solar energy, we are heating not only the
atmosphere, but also the oceans and land.

Such numbers give a very real sense that we humans are
now operating as a geological change agent. But the scary
thing is we have only just begun. Energy use is increasing
exponentially, doubling every 34 years so that it will increase
by 800% in a century. Curtailing energy growth will not be
easy with 2 billion people already in energy poverty and 2
billion more added to the human number by mid century.
So how will we cater for our future energy needs?
One answer stares us in the face. Effectively converting
about 0.06% of the solar energy that hits the land would
meet the entire global energy demand.

But aren’t there problems with renewable energy? Isn’t it
too expensive and unreliable? After all, the wind doesn’t
blow all the time and the sun doesn’t shine at night.
Currently, advanced solar thermal power with molten salt
storage, capable of producing power on demand day or
night, is about four times more expensive than the cheapest
coal fired power plants. But the cost of new technologies
Foreword always reduces with large-scale rollout.
The 2003 USbased Sargent & Lundy report anticipated solar thermal
electricity costs would reach parity with coal fired power
once 8.7 GW of capacity was installed – just a bit under
Victoria’s stationary energy capacity today.

So far, there has not even been modest stimulus for solar
thermal power. The Global Financial Crisis is partly to
blame, but political will is the resource in shortest supply.
The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have changed that.
So what if we were to try to build a 100% renewable energy
system to power the Australian economy in just 10 years?
How could we possibly do that, and what would it cost?
That is the challenge outlined in Australian Sustainable
Energy – Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan.
Zero Carbon Australia outlines a coherent and thoroughly
researched blueprint showing how 100% renewable energy
is achievable using technologies that are commercially
available today: wind power and concentrating solar thermal
with molten salt storage. It goes through the options, costs
and benefits, confirming that a 10 year transformation of the
stationary energy sector is achievable and affordable. This
will also add huge stimulus to the new green economy and
create jobs.

Zero Carbon Australia demonstrates that both cost and
variability can be readily addressed, and exposes as myth
the frequent argument that we need coal, gas or nuclear
to provide baseload electricity. This is achieved by first
smoothing power output across the grid via geographically
dispersed production, and secondly providing dispatchable
“back up” power from the molten salt storage at solar
thermal power plants. Our nation continent, stretching
across climate and time zones, appears ready made for this.
Zero Carbon Australia provides a big vision – Australia as a
renewable energy powerhouse. But 28 billion tonnes of CO2
is a big load, and getting bigger. Therefore a big vision for
an alternative energy system is precisely what is needed.
Zero Carbon Australia is an extraordinary and pragmatic
roadmap to a new and more sustainable energy system
in Australia, and ultimately our region. I recommend it to
all who are truly interested in securing Australia’s energy

Mike Sandiford
Professor of Geology
Director, Melbourne Energy Institute
University of Melbourne
June 2010

Lead authors: Matthew Wright, Executive Director,
Beyond Zero Emissions and Patrick Hearps,
University of Melbourne
Concept: Mark Ogge, Director, Beyond Zero Emissions
Beyond Zero Emissions researchers: Derek Bolton
• Pablo Brait • James Bramwell • Rob Campbell • Kevin
Casey • Chris Clement • Vernon Crock • Richard Denby
• Andy Dinning • Rebecca Dunn • Dominic Eales • Tim
Forcey • Trent Hawkins • Nina Muhleisen • Kevin Yeh •
Adrian Young
University of Melbourne researchers: Reuben Finighan
• Paul Fleckney • Naomi Francis • Chloe Hanson-Boyd
• Rob Harrington • Patrick Hearps • James Hutchison
• Richard Keech • Jim Lambert • Eytan Lenko • Dylan
McConnell • Ben Robotham • Matthew Sullivan
Technical support: Sinclair Knight Merz • Jack Actuarial
Consulting • Adjunct Professor Alan Pears
Editors: Andrew Campbell-Fraser • Jonathan Daly • Dr
Roger Dargaville • Dr Adam Lucas • Elena McMaster •
Jane Morton • Andrew Longmire • Dr Merryn Redenbach
• Warwick Wright
Major supporters: Winsome Constance, • Kindness Trust
• Donkey Wheel Foundation • Climate Positive • Climate
Emergency Network • Dr Gavin Wright • Graeme Wood
• Derek Bolton • Stephen Whateley • T10 Alliance • Dan
Cass and Co.
Graphic designers: •
• Ammon Beyerle • Sandy Chansiri • Dvize Creative •
Genevieve Engelhardt • Luke Hodge • Heidi Lee • Glenn
Todd • Sharon Wong • Scott Bilby
Reviewers: Zane Alcorn • David Bruce-Steer • Jonathan
Doig • Leigh Ewbank • John Fisher • Julie Knight • Petra
Liverani • Annie Neilsen • Dr Kate O’Brien • James Tonson
• Harry Troedel • Huong Truong

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http:/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA. ISBN: 978-0-9808258-0-0 Published by University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute, McCoy Building Corner of Swanston and Elgin Streets University of Melbourne Carlton 3053, Victoria, Australia Designed using Adobe CS4 Printed by Trojan Press, 34 Temple Drive, Thomastown 3074 with vegetable based inks on post consumer recycled paper Cover photograph: © Markel Redondo

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