Queensland, the sunshine state, is also being promoted as the solar state, but how much of this new Qld Government campaign is true? The reality of Qld’s renewable energies, especially solar, is sadly mostly illusion.
So what is true?
- Only about 2% of Qld’s electricity comes from renewable sources
- Historically, our energy comes from burning a by-product of sugar production
- 88% of Qld’s electricity comes from mining and burning coal, which is Qld’s giant industry
- The remaining 10% of electricity comes from another fossil-fuel source – gas
- The state of Qld emits more greenhouse gases per person than anywhere else in Australia (and Australia emits more greenhouse gases per person than any other developed country)
While Qld’s coal reserves are massive, they are not limitless, but our solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy resources are mostly limitless, and definitely more sustainable and valuable than coal in the long term. The government’s collective small measures to cut emissions does appear greener to Queenslanders, but is just distracting us from the larger issue of Qld’s carbon addiction. Qld may be the Sunshine State, but we are not the Solar State by a long shot, and to promote Qld as such is deceptive and misleading to the public. The reality is, the government is yet not serious about this issue. Australia is a mountain of coal surrounded by a sea of gas, but sunshine should be number 1.
In April 2010, the government vowed to double solar energy use across Qld within 5 years, from 250MW to 500MW, which would be 4% of Qld’s current power. So small changes are happening, but are they happening is it fast enough?
A few things that are happening include:
- Since its big solar push started in July 2008, around 32,000 homes and small businesses have installed solar systems
- Not-for-profit group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) has issued a 200-page report to help Qld join an Australia-wide effort to produce all our electricity from renewable energy in just 10 years
- Renewable energy technology is already being used in many places around the world, and has been for a long time, so it is more than possible and available
- Qld could transition easily to Concentrated Solar Thermal power, which could generate around two thirds of all our power
- This technology uses mirrors to reflect the sun’s power onto towers, storing energy in molten salt for up to 17 hours, which then heats steam to drive turbines
- When combined with wind and hydropower, this would give Qld more than 22,000MW of electricity – well beyond the 14,000MW Qld will need by 2020
- Consumers could pay around 6.5c/kW hour extra, which is similar to the rise we could expect for non-renewable energy now
- The only obstacle to this transition will be political, from the government and from big mining companies, who are still transitioning from the ‘old economy’
For more info about the Queensland Government’s Do The Right Thing Campaign visit http://brightthing.energy.qld.gov.au