The past years saw the emerging awareness of renewable energy as an inevitable element of sustainable development around the globe. Australia tries to catch up with the global sustainability change. The Federal Government has successfully ratified the Kyoto Protocol, while implementing new polices to minimise the scope of climate change. Meanwhile, a new renewable energy target was set at 20 percent, to reduce greenhouse emissions and increase the share of renewable sources in energy manufacturing. Yet, one year ago, the entire renewable energy industry in Australia woke up in shock to hear Prime Minister Tony Abbott speak about the elimination of renewable energy targets. The statement was not surprising, given the historical dependence of the Australian political elites on fossil fuel manufacturers. Yet, the truth is that Australia needs to support renewable energies for both economic and sustainability reasons: being particularly rich in sustainable energy resources, Australia has all chances to combat the devastating effects of climate change and improve its economic wellbeing in the long run.
Renewable energy is a buzzword in contemporary politics and policymaking. It is also an object of serious political controversy for Australia. On the one hand, new policies are designed to reduce greenhouse emissions at the federal level. On the other hand, debates as to the financial feasibility and potential social and sustainability advantages of renewable energy continue to persist. Australia was among other countries to set a 20-percent renewable energy target by 2020. In 2014, Tony Abbott’s government announced its determination to abolish that target. Compared with the 100%-target set by Denmark, Australia’s renewable energy ambitions are at least modest. If the federal government does not fulfil its renewable energy promise, Australia will lag behind the developed world in achieving even the basic sustainability objectives. It is through the active development of renewable energy sources that Australia can enjoy unprecedented economic and sustainability outcomes.
Speaking about economics, Australia is home to numerous renewable energy resources. Therefore, achieving even the most ambitious renewable energy targets will not be a problem. As Jones writes, “Australia is described as being exceptionally rich in naturally renewable or replenishable resources for energy from sources like solar, geothermal and wind.” Australia could potentially satisfy 60 percent of its energy needs with the help of bioenergy and wind by 2050. As of today, the renewable energy industry has the technologies and innovations required to make solar and geothermal energy a typical source of electricity in Australia. Therefore, the costs of implementing such projects will hardly be high. The economic advantages brought by renewable energy will readily cover any expenses incurred in the development of green energy projects.
The renewable energy target has already become a major instrument of macroeconomic renewal in Australia. White reports that a total of $18 billion of investments have been made in the energy industry since the renewable energy target was set. By 2020, another $18 billion will flow into the sector. Thousands of new jobs have been created to ensure that the renewable energy target is met on time. Meanwhile, Australian consumers enjoy lower prices for electricity. In South Australia, the use of wind energy has led to substantial reductions in the wholesale price of electricity. According to Evans, Strezov, and Evans, the price of electricity also has profound implications for sustainability, since an unfavourable economic situation in energy manufacturing cannot be sustainable. In the long run, renewable energy has the potential to increase the country’s GDP and keep unemployment levels relatively low. These, however, are not the only advantages of the renewable energy target.
Australia needs to support renewable energies for sustainability reasons. A substantial reduction in greenhouse emissions is probably the key reason why renewable energies are so important for Australia. The country has everything needed to achieve zero emissions from electricity production, as renewable sources gradually replace conventional methods of power generation. Greenhouse gas emissions will decrease not only because the percentage of renewable energies increases but also because Australia will no longer rely on environmentally-unfriendly transportation to import fuels. Australia is one of the world’s largest environmental polluters per capita, and using renewable energies for sustainability is inevitable. Certainly, not everyone will readily agree to accept the new renewable energy policy priorities.
The key questions emerge in relation to the traditional energy industry. In South Australia, increased reliance on solar and wind energy has already led to closing two coal-based power stations. The costs of renewable energies development also should not be ignored. The Economist suggests that the best renewable energy sources are typically located far from large cities, thus making it difficult to create an effective electricity grid. Still, even these costs do not diminish the value and potential significance of renewable energies in Australia, as the country seeks to make sustainable development an essential part of its everyday political, economic, and social agenda.
To conclude, Australia should support renewable energies by all possible means, since they bring considerable economic and sustainability advantages. From the economic standpoint, Australia is rich in renewable energy sources. The nation is fully equipped with all technologies needed to develop the renewable energy industry. The latter attracts billions of dollars in investments, while decreasing the price of electricity for ultimate consumers. Renewable energies create new jobs and generate new revenues for the Australian economy. The renewable energy target is a perfect strategy to achieve ambitious sustainability objectives, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, not everyone will immediately accept the advantages promised by renewable energies in Australia. Apart from the costs of renewable energy development, the future of the conventional power sources needs to be considered. Nonetheless, it is through renewable energies that Australia can catch up with the global sustainability trends.