A new report released yesterday by Environment Victoria has outlined Australia’s electricity generation mix between 1960-2009 and has demonstrated a serious lack of commitment to renewable energy generation. The report highlights a steady decline in the proportion of renewable energy sources and an ever increasing reliance on coal-fired power.

During the 1960s, renewable energy enjoyed an impressive 19 per cent contribution to Australia’s total energy generation. In 2008, that figure was at an embarrassing 7 per cent. Campaigns Director for Environment Victoria Mark Wakeham said that “for all of the hand-wringing about climate change over the past decade we’ve seen massive growth in emissions from coal generation while renewable energy has flat-lined.”

The report’s detailed analysis of the 2001-2009 time period demonstrates a dramatic 10 per cent increase in coal-fired power generation and a resulting annual increase in greenhouse emissions of 14 million tonnes.

Considering Australia’s plentiful renewable energy resources, the continued reliance on coal to fill the void created by growth in the country is unnerving. Australia’s demand for electricity has increased 10 fold since 1960 and coal has done more than just pick up the slack, it has increased energy generation 12 fold during the same time period.

Wakeham supports a carbon pricing scheme arguing that “without a price on carbon the Australian economy will continue with pollution-as-usual.” In a recent article, BZE’s Leigh Ewbank argues that a carbon price alone will not be enough to nurture the growth of renewable energy. “Although a carbon price will make fossil fuels more expensive,” says Ewbank, “the mechanism does not make renewable sources absolutely cheaper. For that, technology push and market pull policies are needed in order to drive down the cost of renewables.”

Australia needs to stop falling back on coal to meet increasing electricity demands. Serious investment is needed in renewable technologies. With 50 per cent of the potential revenue from the carbon tax unallocated, the Gillard government still has an opportunity dismantle Australia’s dependence on coal by making smart investments in the renewable energy sector.

By BZE Media Volunteer Dev Capey

This article was first published on Beyond Zero Emissions

Beyond Zero Emissions Inc. is a not-for-profit, volunteer run organisation. Our core goal is to develop blueprints for the implementation of climate change solutions that will rapidly reduce emissions and give our society and global ecosystems a chance of surviving into the future. We also run broad-based education campaigns based on this research.

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