This blog was originally published in 2017, and has been revised in June 2021
About the Energy Crisis
To effectively achieve sustainable energy to solve the Energy Crisis, we should first look at what’s causing it.
The Energy Crisis is affecting all parts of the world, including developed and developing countries. It doesn’t take much to see that our energy needs over the last couple of centuries have skyrocketed, and we are reliant on an ageing fossil-fuel driven energy grid.
Our energy consumption, coupled with diminishing fossil fuel resources and their effect on the health of the environment are the main causes of the world Energy Crisis.
Fossil fuels, energy waste & over consumption
Fossil fuel resources are polluting and causing a significant increase in Co2 emissions, and are also becoming increasingly close to exhaustion. But we are also facing challenges of energy overconsumption and energy waste.
Australia's current energy consumption model relies mostly on consumable and finite resources, coal, oil, and gas, for example, and these are becoming closer to being exhausted. According to current projections, we only have enough oil reserves for about 40-60 years, about 60 years’ worth of conventional oil and about 2 centuries worth of coal reserves.
We unnecessarily waste energy, and the reduction of waste has proven to be a huge source of energy savings, which requires due diligence on an individual and community level.
The environmental & economic effects
The effects of the Energy Crisis are both environmental and economic. The overuse of traditional energy sources contributes to the increase of greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2), resulting in global warming and harming the environment and biodiversity.
While energy security is another major concern economically. Energy conditions (supply and reliability) are a main factor in assessing the possibility of economic growth, which is essential to the market economy, particularly for developing countries. The Energy Crisis could therefore have a dramatic impact on the global economy.
So how could we solve the Energy Crisis?Considering the Energy Crisis, Enova's sees clear imperative to look to renewable energy sources. The national debate continues to focus on many potential solutions such as:
- Storage technology
- Improved connection between the states
- Earmarking a portion of gas for domestic use only
- More sophisticated grid management
Clean coal is not the answer
Yes, clean coal is mentioned too - but we’re not convinced it’s actually a real thing. Coal is either filthy, or a bit less filthy. While it’s unrealistic to suggest that it won’t be around for a little while yet, it’s Enova's belief that time, effort and money will be better spent on alternatives with real potential such as the below potential solutions.
Gas may be quickly surpassed
In the short term there probably is a role to play for gas, but the rapid advancements in storage technologies may even bypass gas as a solution.
In the meantime, the Australian Electricity Market Operator (AEMO), has drawn up a list of recommendations. These include that LNG producers redirect some gas meant for export and set it aside for domestic use only.
There is also the introduction of incentives to see what extra gas can be extracted from existing and new fields, and building a proposed pipeline from the Northern Territory to eastern states.
In the May 2017 budget the Federal Government earmarked $28.7 million over four years to encourage the responsible development of onshore gas for the domestic market.
Pumped Hydro/Snowy River Hydro
In the same 2017 federal budget, the Government stated its intention to buy a larger share of the Snowy Hydro scheme to bolster its renewable energy stores.
On average, most places in Australia experience more than 200 days of sunshine per year, yet as a nation we are nowhere near as advanced with rooftop generated solar power as we could be.
Solar power is a clean, reliable energy source that can be used on its own, or augmented with other power sources. Solar presents an obvious solution because it is cost effective, and immediately available. Households that install panels on their roofs today can be generating their own solar immediately and feed back to the grid any excess they generate.
Energy Storage Technology (Batteries)
Until now, the price of batteries has been the main impediment to widespread uptake for households.
However, it’s possible that in the face of this impending Energy Crisis two things may occur. The demand for batteries will increase, bringing prices down.
Then, the second consideration is that the price of batteries needs to be factored in alongside volatile and rising energy prices.
This means that for some, storage might be more economically viable than previously thought. However, for households there is still reason to proceed with an element of caution before investing as the technology is still changing and so is the price.
What about climate change – can we find the balance?
The generation of electricity using fossil fuels account for around a third of Australia’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions, the single biggest contributor of any sector, twice that of transport.
Therefore, if we are to start to tackle climate change, the easiest place to start is transitioning to a cleaner energy sector and leaving 19th century fuels behind, buried in the ground where they belong.
The most immediate, cost-effective and flexible solution to Australia’s Energy Crisis
The mounting evidence suggests that the most immediate, cost-effective and flexible solution to Australia’s Energy Crisis, whilst also possibly delivering a more rapid cut in emissions, involves a combination of:
- Clean energy
- Storage technology
- Improved energy efficiency
- Energy market education and transparency for consumers
- More sophisticated grid management at times of peak demand
The impact upon the Australian consumer
So, there are number of feasible options to energy management and costs, and they are all valid.
However, the resulting impact upon the Australian consumer remains the issue of rising prices in the short term, as we transition to lower cost and reliable renewable energy.