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Mix of renewables needed for low-carbon future

20th Feb 2012

Solar power needs to be used alongside a range of other renewable energy sources in order for Australia to meet its low-carbon objectives, an expert believes.

The country has various low-emission technologies open to it, explained energy program director at the Grattan Institute Tony Wood, with creating a combination of them being the best option.

He referred to a recent report from the institute, which outlined how solar panels have become more affordable over recent years.

This is due to a number of government programs taking place throughout the world, including feed-in tariffs, which have consequently made solar photovoltaics all the more attractive to the public.

The government recently outlined a number of energy efficiency plans designed to encourage the smarter use of power in households and businesses all over Australia.

It is intended that the initiatives will help all Australians reduce their energy usage, no matter where they live or how much they earn.

One of the schemes is the Low Income Energy Efficiency Program, which has been allocated $100 million of funding to demonstrate smarter energy use in low-income households across the country.

Speaking to Climate Spectator, Mr Wood highlighted that there is still some way to go before solar panels provide a worthy competitor to other low-emission technologies.

He also indicated that it is yet to be seen whether gas prices increase at the same rate in which solar costs reduce, especially with so much volatility in the market.

Global gas prices have fallen over the past few months, which could potentially mean that the US becomes an exporter.

However, Mr Wood pointed out that it is in no way clear what gas prices will do over the coming years, as this will largely be influenced by environmental challenges faced by coal seam gas and shale gas.

The Grattan Institute Report found that the government needs to take measures to lower the cost of low-emission technologies in order to encourage uptake and help Australia meet its carbon emission targets.

Mr Wood suggested that although carbon pricing is one way in which the cost of these technologies can be made more affordable, it will not be nearly enough on its own to drive down prices.

"How governments should step in is an acute intellectual and policy challenge. Yet Australia's move to a low-carbon future will be too expensive unless they do," he commented.

Posted by Mike Peacock


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