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The Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan for 100% renewable energy by 2020

The Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan by Beyond Zero Emissions outlines a technically feasible and economically attractive way for Australia to transition to 100% renewable energy within ten years. The Zero Carbon Australia report provides a detailed blueprint for transitioning Australia’s stationary energy sector to 100% renewable energy sources by 2020.

The ZCA2020 Plan shows that with a combination of energy efficiency, fuel-switching from gas and oil to electrified energy services, then using a combination of commercially available renewable energy technologies, Australia's energy needs can be met with 100% renewables.

The required investment is the equivalent of a stimulus to the economy of 3% of GDP or $370 billion.

The project involved a team of engineers, scientists, researchers and others — including engineers from the existing fossil fuel energy sector —contributing thousands of hours of pro bono work to put together a detailed roadmap of the steps necessary to replace our coal and gas infrastructure with renewable energy.

The plan details a rollout of large solar thermal plants at 12 proposed sites across the country to supply 60 per cent of Australia's power, with the other 40 per cent being supplied by wind.

According to the Plan, to avoid the threat of a “tipping point”, such as the decline in Arctic ice, triggered by excessive temperatures we need to reduce atmospheric CO2 from the present level of 390 ppm to well below 350 ppm‚ significantly closer to pre-industrial concentrations of 285 ppm .

The aim of the Project as a whole is to outline how each sector of the Australian economy can achieve zero or negative greenhouse emissions: in Stationary Energy, Transport, Buildings, Industrial Processes, and Land Use. This Stationary Energy Report is the first of the installments.

To make an immediate transition, we can use only the solutions that are available to us today. Should new zero-emissions technologies become viable, cost-competitive and available in the lifetime of the Plan, their inclusion may reduce costs and increase benefits even further.

To meet the 40% extra electricity demand by 2020, a combination of wind and solar thermal with storage are proposed as the primary electricity generation technologies. The ZCA2020 Plan calls for energy efficiency measures to progressively reduce electricity used for current services.

Examples of how this can be done include efficient appliances, improved building design, retrofitting insulation, double and triple-glazing, as well as improved industrial efficiency .

The chosen renewable energy technologies are a mix of wind turbines, concentrating solar thermal with storage, small-scale solar, and backup capacity from biomass and existing hydroelectricity:

  • Wind Turbines: Wind generation is a key component because of its relatively low cost and industry maturity. Wind is proposed to meet 40% of the total grid-connected demand.
  • Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST): Large scale Concentrating Solar Thermal with molten salt storage offers reliable electricity 24 hours per day. Solar power towers are proposed because of their technological maturity, higher operating temperatures and efficiency compared to other technologies. CST is proposed to meet 60% of the total grid-connected demand.
  • Small scale solar: Small scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power has a role in reducing the demand for grid electricity during sunlight hours. This in turn allows the CST plants to accumulate more stored energy for release at night.
  • Hydroelectric generators: existing hydroelectric generators have a useful role providing first-dispatch backup and peaking power.
  • Biomas backup: backup from crop-residual CST plants offers energy security, protecting against occasions when a combination of low wind daily solar radiation occurs.

    Plants will be located at sites around Australia that are selected for their wind availability, solar incidence, economy of scale, transmission costs, technical efficency, and geographical diversity.

    The plan has received support by a variety of academics and scientists. Associate Professor Keith Lovegrove, Leader Solar Thermal Group at the Australian National University said ”The ZCA report analyses one particular scenario of renewable energy technology choice based on available solutions, in considerable depth. It successfully shows in detail that 100% renewable energy is both technically possible and economically affordable”.

    The plan would create up to 80,000 jobs from installation of renewable energy generation at the peak of construction, and over 45,000 jobs in operations and maintenance that will continue for the life of the plant. Such a scheme would also generate up to 30,000 jobs in manufacturing wind turbines and heliostats.

    Ironically, Trade Minister Simon Crean recently signed an export deal between Melbourne-based Environmental “Clean” Technologies and Vietnamese company TinCom. From 2014, the Victorian company expects to export 2 million tonnes of dried brown coal a year to burn in Vietnamese power stations, eventually rising to 20 million tonnes a year. Greens climate change spokeswoman Christine Milne said the federal government could not be serious about reducing emissions if was willing to open up a massive polluting export industry. It's no use talking about a carbon price in Australia if at the same time you are going to rev-up coal exports to other parts of the world to make climate change worse.

    Why does it take volunteers from a non-government organisation to come up with such a sustainable solution to our energy needs that avoids our addiction to fossil fuels?

    FREE PUBLIC LECTURE - The Future of Renewable Energy in Australia
    Wednesday 14th July,
    6pm – 8pm
    Basement Theatre,
    The Spot,
    198 Berkeley Street
    University of Melbourne

    Download the full report

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    Bendigo Sustainability Group is proposing Bendigo become home to a solar thermal base load plant that it believes is the future of renewable energy in Australia. Group president Karen Corr said the Vietnamese deal showed the federal government was not serious about acting on climate change. The technology proposed by Beyond Zero Emissions uses reflectors or mirrors to focus solar energy and generate heat which can be stored or used to generate steam which is used to turn turbines and generate electricity. Federal Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons said he was interested to hear the group’s proposal.
    The plan goes into great detail on the resource and labour requirements, and even the factories that would be required to make all the component parts. It has detailed energy modelling to establish that it could actually supply the electricity reliably all year round. Wonder if Senator Penny Wong really wants climate change solutions or just another tax!