Green and Gold: How Australian Renewable Energy Companies Are Powering the Future

In the face of escalating climate crises and the pressing need for sustainable development, it is widely acknowledged that Australia need to move to an efficient, renewable-based energy system. Australia, with its abundant natural resources, is at the forefront of this transition, harnessing the power of the elements to fuel a cleaner, greener future. This article delves into the innovations driving Australia’s renewable energy sector, contrasting it with traditional energy sources, and outlining the urgent need for global action towards sustainability.

What Constitutes Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy is derived from natural processes that are replenished at a rate faster than they are consumed. Unlike fossil fuels, which take millions of years to form and offer a finite resource, renewable energy sources are virtually inexhaustible. Examples include:
• Solar Power: Harnessing sunlight using photovoltaic cells or solar thermal collectors.
• Wind Energy: Utilizing wind turbines to convert air flow into electricity.
• Hydroelectric Power: Generating electricity through the movement of water in rivers or dams.
• Geothermal Energy: Exploiting heat from the Earth’s core to produce power.
• Biomass: Converting organic materials into electricity, heat, or biofuels.

Electricity generated from natural sources, such as sunlight, wind, rain, and geothermal heat constitutes renewable energy.

Non-Renewable Energy Sources
Non-renewable energy sources are those that do not replenish quickly enough to be considered sustainable. They are primarily derived from fossil fuels and nuclear resources, including:
• Coal: Mined and burned to produce electricity.
• Oil and Natural Gas: Extracted and burned to generate power and heat.
• Nuclear Power: Utilizing nuclear fission to create heat and electricity, though not a fossil fuel, it produces radioactive waste.

Normal energy sources or non-renewable or fossil fuels, come from finite resources that take millions of years to form.

Comparing Energy Sources
Renewable Energy Sector

Advantages:
• Sustainability: Inexhaustible supply from natural sources.
• Low Emissions: Minimal greenhouse gas emissions during operation.
• Job Creation: Potential for economic growth and jobs in new technologies and maintenance.
Disadvantages:
• Intermittency: Reliance on weather conditions can lead to variability in power supply.
• High Initial Costs: Upfront investment in infrastructure can be significant.

Non-Renewable Energy Sector
Advantages:
• High Energy Density: Can produce large amounts of energy from small amounts of fuel.
• Established Infrastructure: Existing systems and technologies are well-developed.
Disadvantages:
• Environmental Impact: Significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation.
• Finite Resources: Limited supply that is expensive and geopolitically challenging to secure.

Leading countries in renewable energy production include China, the United States, and Germany.
Ranking the top 20 countries based on their renewable energy production provides insight into global efforts to transition towards cleaner sources of power. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), these countries produced approximately 81% of the world’s renewable electricity in 2019 (in descending order):

  1. China – 36%
  2. United States – 20%
  3. Germany – 13%
  4. India – 7%
  5. Brazil – 5%
  6. Canada – 3%
  7. Australia – 6%
  8. Japan – 4%
  9. Mexico – 3%
  10. United Kingdom – 2%
  11. Spain – 2%
  12. France – 2%
  13. South Korea – 2%
  14. Italy – 1%
  15. Poland – 1%
  16. Russia – 1%
  17. Argentina – 1%
  18. Netherlands – 1%
  19. Turkey – 0.5%
  20. Iran – 0.5%

Criteria for this ranking include total renewable electricity production, investment in renewable energy infrastructure, and government support for renewable energy policies.
Australia ranked a noteworthy seventh, contributing about 6% of the world’s total renewable electricity production. In consideration of its tiny population of 25 million people, this high seventh ranking is truly exceptional.
Source: International Energy Agency (IEA) Statistics

Champions of Renewable Energy: Paving the Way
Australian companies like SunEdison and Infigen Energy are leading the charge in renewable energy, with a combined market capitalisation of over $1 billion. These companies develop, construct, own, and operate large-scale wind and solar farms across Australia and internationally.
Other large companies in Australia driving the renewable energy sector include Origin Energy, AGL Energy, and Total Energies. These organisations are investing in renewable energy projects, such as wind farms and solar panels, to reduce their carbon footprint and meet growing consumer demand for cleaner energy solutions.

Australian Renewable Energy Innovation Projects : Paving the Way
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is funding several projects aimed at researching and trialling renewable energy technologies, including:

  1. The SunCatcher Project – Developing a large-scale solar tower with molten salt storage to provide consistent electricity output.
  2. Hydrogen Energy: Producing hydrogen fuel from renewable energy sources for use in transportation and industry.
  3. The Thermal Energy Storage Project: Storing excess solar power in molten salt tanks for later use, improving the efficiency of solar farms.

Australian Government’s Role: Leading the Charge

The Australian government is taking steps to promote and incentivise the renewable energy sector through initiatives such as the Renewable Energy Target, which aims to increase Australia’s share of renewable energy to 33% by 2025. Additionally, the National Hydrogen Strategy outlines a plan for Australia to become a leading hydrogen producer and exporter.

Australian Attitudes towards Renewable Energy: Shifting Perspectives
Australian public opinion on renewable energy is generally positive, with increasing support for cleaner sources of power as concerns over climate change grow. According to a 2020 poll by the Australia Institute, 67% of Australians believe that renewable energy should be prioritised over fossil fuels. However, some sections of the population remain sceptical or indifferent towards renewables, highlighting the need for continued education and engagement on this critical issue.
The future of our planet depends on our collective efforts to embrace renewable energy and reduce reliance on non-renewable resources. By working together, we can create a sustainable world for generations to come.

A World Without Renewable Energy: Consequences and Solutions
The world uses approximately 16 terawatts (TW) of primary energy per year, with about 75% coming from non-renewable sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Renewable energy contributes about 25%, or 4 TW, to the global energy mix.
Ignoring the warning signs and failing to invest in renewable energy could lead to devastating consequences, including increased greenhouse gas emissions that worsen climate change, reliance on non-renewable resources that contribute to environmental damage and resource depletion.
Australians can take several steps to foster and grow the renewable energy sector:

  1. Encourage investment in renewable energy infrastructure, such as solar farms, wind turbines, and hydroelectric power stations.
  2. Install solar panels on homes and businesses.
  3. Increase awareness of renewable energy solutions through public education campaigns.
  4. Support policies that incentivise the transition to renewable energy sources.
  5. Collaborate with businesses and organisations that are committed to a sustainable future.

By embracing renewable energy, Australians can contribute to a healthier planet for future generations while ensuring economic growth and stability. The survival of our world depends on it.

Practicality of Transitioning to Renewable Energy
Transitioning from non-renewable to renewable energy sources is a complex process that requires significant investment in infrastructure and policy support. While some countries have made substantial progress, others face challenges in implementing large-scale renewable energy projects. Replacing all non-renewable energy sources with renewables would require vast investments in solar farms, wind turbines, hydroelectric power stations, and battery storage systems. However, this transition will not lead to starvation as the global food supply is not directly related to the energy sector.

The journey towards a renewable future is both a challenge and an opportunity. Australia’s “Green and Gold” initiative symbolizes not only the nation’s natural wealth but also its potential to lead by example in the global energy transition. By embracing renewable energy, Australia, and the world, can ensure a sustainable, prosperous future for generations to come. The time for action is now; the survival of our planet depends on the choices we make today.

References

  1. International Energy Agency (IEA). “Renewables 2020: Net Additions.” IEA.org, 16 Dec. 2020, www.iea.org/reports/renewables-2020 and https://www.iea.org.
  2. U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). “International Energy Statistics – Electricity.” Eia.gov, Accessed 11 March 2024, www.eia.gov/international/data/world/electricity.
  3. World Energy Outlook 2020. IEA & World Bank Group, 2020, https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-outlook-2020.
  4. Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). “Projects.” ARENA, Accessed 11 March 2024, www.arena.gov.au/projects.
  5. Department of Climate Change Energy, the Environment and Water, Accessed 11 March 2024, https://www.dcceew.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/australias-national-hydrogen-strategy.pdf. Review of the National Hydrogen Strategy https://consult.dcceew.gov.au/review-of-the-national-hydrogen-strategy
  6. Origin Energy. “Renewable Energy” https://www.originenergy.com.au/about/who-we-are/what-we-do/renewable-energy/ Accessed 11 March 2024. https://www.originenergy.com.au/
  7. AGL Energy. “How We Source Engergy”, Accessed 11 March 2024, https://www.agl.com.au/about-agl/how-we-source-energy
  8. Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) – Provides extensive reports on renewable energy policy, market, investment, and industry trends. https://www.ren21.net. The Renewable Energy and Sustainability Report https://www.ren21.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/REN21-RESR-2023_LowRes.pdf
  9. Clean Energy Council (CEC) – Represents Australia’s clean energy sector, offering insights into policy, projects, and market development. https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au
  10. Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources – Provides information on government policies, programs, and research related to renewable energy. https://www.industry.gov.au
  11. The World Bank – Features global data and analysis on energy usage and renewable energy adoption across countries. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/energy

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