Real World: Germany 20 v Australia 5

Just after Anzac Day is a good time to reflect on our collective failure to meet the challenge of altering Australia’s energy mix. We all know coal is plentiful in the wide brown (oh yeah!) land, and that our polluting power stations produce cheap electricity, but that’s just the problem: it pollutes, to use an old-fashioned word. And one day the coal will run out (what’s left after exports to China), which is why it’s called a finite resource. Now, which part of that do people not understand? Oh, and yes, there’s a high probability that it’s also changing the climate.

A study by the University of Technology and Melbourne Business School on Australian attitudes towards society, politics and the economy has confirmed that we are ‘effectively indifferent to global and societal issues’. Concerns about industrial pollution, climate change, renewable energy, and depletion of energy resources fell dramatically compared to 2007. Attitudes in the UK and USA to environmental sustainability were equally parochial and selfish, and in stark contrast to Germany, where global issues ranked high.

The corollary is well explained in an excellent program on ABC Radio 702 – ‘Germany and Renewable Energy’ – in which a few experts take us succinctly through the politics and facts of twenty years of German experience of building a renewable energy network. National laws on feed-in tariffs were passed in 1990, and in 2000 with twenty year contracts. The cost of photovoltaics is tumbling, and demand so strong that Germany cannot manufacture enough at present. The base load power and economic viability of renewables are demonstrably clear there. Germany has an average of 1738 hours of sunshine a year, or 4.8 hours a day. We have that much before breakfast! Finding plenty of wind in our empty continent is also a no-brainer. Geo-thermal, bio-mass and other clever renewable methods make up the energy mix.  Wake up Australia!

Germany has grown its renewable energy from 2% of total supplies in 1990 to 20% in 2012; meantime Australia has managed to finally get to 5%. Anzac spirit my arse. At that rate Germany will reach 100% renewable energy by 2030, and decommission all nuclear power stations. ‘Beyond Zero Emissions’ shows that Australia could also reach 100% renewables before then using existing technologies. What’s missing is our political leadership. And our collective will, which may involve sacrifices on our part. Lest we forget indeed, wombats! Eats, roots & leaves a mess.

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