We often hear about 'clean' or 'renewable' energy, but what is it, really? Truly clean energy is renewable because it comes from unlimited natural sources: sunlight, wind, flowing water (hydro), heat stored in the earth’s crust, and the energy stored in plants and animal waste (bioenergy).
“We know that coal is the single largest polluter, so we've got to move on to a new energy future…The Australia I grew up in rode on the sheep's back, but we've moved on – it's the same with coal.” Tim Flannery, Australian of the Year 2007
Why renewable energy?
Clean, renewable energy is the logical choice for many reasons. Unlike coal, oil and gas, renewable energy produces virtually no net greenhouse emissions when generating power. In most cases the fuel – sun, wind, heat from the earth or the power of flowing rivers – is free. Renewable energy is also secure and home-grown – unlike oil, which is running out, and leads to war and conflict.
But can it do the job?
Study after study shows that tapping a combination of clean, renewable energy sources, while improving energy efficiency and conservation, will tackle climate change while keeping our economy strong. We can do it by phasing out coal, and without building nuclear reactors.
In fact, we could cover the world’s entire current energy demand six times over by using the renewable technology that’s available today. Denmark now sources about 20 percent of its power on average from wind. That figure is expected to reach as high as 75 percent by 2025. Spain now gets up to 27 percent of its total power from wind.
The Greenpeace International Energy [R]evolution report shows us how we can use existing technologies to halve global CO2 emissions by 2050 – and even allow for an increase in energy consumption!
What about cost?
Despite being the new kids on the block, some types of renewable energy - such as wind and biomass power (from plant and animal waste) - are already competing with cheap coal power in some regions. The cost of these new energy industries is dropping as fast as they can expand, so they will keep getting cheaper. Even solar photovoltaic power (solar electricity), one of the costlier forms of electricity, could compete with regular electricity retail prices by 2020.
Research shows that we can shift to clean energy without hurting the economy. In fact, not taking action will be much more costly. The cost of not taking action on the climate crisis could translate to as much as 20 percent of GDP per year.
Think that sounds a bit alarmist?
Don’t take our word for it. Read the report
Generating jobs and investment
The renewable energy industry is job-intensive. Germany’s fast-growing renewable energy industry already employs more than the coal and nuclear industries in that country combined. Spain’s wind industry has revitalized regional economies and supports more than 30,000 jobs. It will support twice that many by 2010. Meanwhile, yesterday’s energy industries are shedding jobs.
Australian coal industry employment dropped 30 percent in just four years between 1996 and 2000.
In Australia, making the switch to clean energy means a better future for our children in these bright, new sunrise industries for renewable technology.
Help us send the right signal
Lack of government support for these promising new industries is holding back jobs and development. As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investment has left Australia for greener pastures in recent years. Renewable energy entrepreneurs who want to invest in Australia have simply received the wrong signals from government.