Two major reports released this week have shown how Australian attitudes towards renewable energy are changing, and that this is happening at the exact same time that the economic viability of Solar Power is surpassing that of exported Coal.
The Climate Institute has just released its annual review of public attitudes on climate change and its solutions in the Report, Climate of the Nation 2015. It shows that the popularity of renewable energy amongst Australians has reached an all-time high. Fossil fuels, by contrast have slumped to an all-time low. Among all energy sources, solar power leads in popularity at 84%, up 2% on last year. Wind is the second most popular energy source at 69%, an increase of 5% on last year.
India doesn’t need Australian coal
Significantly, another recently released Report, India’s Electricity Sector Transformation by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, finds that Solar Power can produce electricity in India at a cheaper cost than a new coal plant fuelled by imported coal from Australia. Since the claim that more coal will lift 100 million out of energy poverty in India was central to arguments put forward by Adani (and supported by the Australian government) for the giant Carmicheal mine, we are seeing the supposed economic arguments made for this massive development crumbling. In actuality, because many Indians aren’t connected to the grid at all, it is small local Solar PV installations that are the most cost-effective (and carbon effective) solution for energy poverty.
‘With falling prices of solar, imported coal has become the most expensive source of incremental electricity generation.’ said Jai Sharda, co-author of the report.
India’s increased domestic coal production in combination with expansion of renewables will mean the country will have no need for coal imports that the Carmichael mine will supposedly provide.
“While many commodity forecasters have assumed Indian imports will continue to grow, as a result of the transformation, IEEFA forecasts a peak in Indian thermal coal imports in 2015, with a rapid 20% per annum decline thereafter”. said Tim Buckley, Director of Energy Finance Studies at Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
“India is replicating Germany’s and China’s systematic electricity sector transformation, with the added advantage that the cost effectiveness of this is accentuated by the fact that the price of solar electricity has dropped by 80% in 5 years,” The Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has shown that the cost of producing electricity in India using Australian coal from the Galilee Basin is two times the current average wholesale cost of electricity. This makes Galilee Basin coal too expensive for India.
In contrast, even if 1% of India’s land area were to be used to harness the abundant solar energy at an efficiency of 10%, the country could generate 570 times India’s current electricity demand.
Solar means Australian jobs
The future of Australian industry isn’t coal dependent either. An Adelaide solar manufacturer is now in negotiations with one of India’s largest power companies in a deal that could result in 1,000 new jobs in South Australia. Heliostat South Australia, formed out of the company Precision Components at Beverley, has signed memoranda of understanding with India’s Global Wind Power Limited to manufacture and develop solar products. Pointing out the declining manufacturing and automotive industry in the Adelaide area, Heliostat executive chairman Darrin Spinks said “We need to build a new industry and what … everyone’s asking is “What can that new industry be?” And we believe that solar has a very large portion to play.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Solar Power Station at White Cliffs, New South Wales, Australia.