In moving away from coal, energy experts argue, Australia should diversify its low-carbon portfolio.
Climate change is reshaping weather patterns the world over and few countries will end up suffering the consequences as badly as Australia, much of which is barely suitable for human habitation as it is. In coming decades, experts say, Australians are in for rough times climate-wise. “We are seeing heatwaves becoming much more intense,” notes John Nairn, an Australian meteorologist.
For most of the year much of Australia is baked by a scorching hot sun with short winters providing balmier temperatures, much to the relief of locals. Yet according to a team of Australian researchers, within three decades those winters will have become only memories from the past.
Being on the frontlines of climate change, many Australians are acutely aware of the need to reduce the country’s carbon emissions as part of global climate mitigation efforts. Currently some 80% of the country’s CO2 emissions are still generated by the burning of fossil fuels. In a bid to wean itself off coal, oil and gas, Australia, a vast country well suited for renewables like solar and wind, is fast adopting renewables for energy generation.
If the current rate of wind and solar installations is kept up, Australia will exceed its ambitious Renewable Energy Target of 33,000 GWh by next year with as much as 29% of domestic electricity provided by renewables in 2020. Several energy experts believe that just as Australia is transitioning to renewables it should also embrace nuclear power as a low-carbon solution. Despite being home to around a third of the planet’s uranium deposits, Australia has yet to have a single nuclear power plant.
According to a new survey, more Australians are in favor of nuclear power plants than against them. Public support for nuclear power is rising despite an ongoing campaign by some environmentalist groups that remain opposed to nuclear energy over safety concerns. Based on the survey, 54% of those polled believe that nuclear energy would be a reliable source of energy. Several prominent Australian politicians, too, have expressed support for nuclear energy.
In moving away from coal, energy experts argue, Australia should diversify its low-carbon portfolio with a large share of variable renewable energy and an equally large share of dispatchable low-carbon energy such as nuclear power and hydro-electricity.
“What nuclear energy and hydro-electricity, as the primary dispatchable low-carbon generation options, bring to the equation is the ability to produce at will large amounts of low-carbon power predictably according to the requirements of households and industry,” the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) explains apropos its recommended energy policy for Australia. “For the right decisions to be made, these factors must be understood and addressed,” the OECD adds.
This view is in line with that of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which argues that in order to address the manmade causes of climate change by reducing CO2 emissions drastically nuclear energy should be expanded. Nuclear should account for a quarter of global electricity generation by midcentury “as part of a clean and reliable low-carbon mix, in harmony with an increase in renewable sources,” two scientists write in the Bulletin. “Achieving this means nuclear generation must triple globally by 2050,” they add.