THE Prime Minister has welcomed a report which estimates it would cost tens of billions of dollars to meet targets on climate change, saying it backs his policy on endorsing a move towards nuclear power.
Australia’s energy generation industry commissioned independent research to find the cheapest way to achieve substantial cuts to greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades.
The report predicts a 30 per cent cut in emissions by 2030 – the amount necessary to meet scientists’ calls for reductions to combat climate change – would cost $75 billion in new infrastructure and could double the cost of electricity generation.
“The answer is a greater emphasis on clean coal and nuclear power,” Mr Howard has said.
“It (the report) recognises that while renewables such as solar and wind have a role to play, and we have always argued that, they will not provide the fundamental answer.
“It’s just simply not feasible to run power stations in this country on solar and wind energy.”
The power generators’ research finds the best way to meet the targets in Australia is to retro-fit coal-fired power stations to capture emissions and use nuclear power. Technologies such as solar and wind power are not tipped to play a major role in energy supply until the second half of the century.
The Energy Supply Association of Australia report challenges the effectiveness of mandatory renewable targets introduced by state governments last year. It suggests these strategies could force up the price of electricity and that cheaper alternatives are available.
Capturing and storing emissions from coal-fired power stations, if viable, is identified as the lowest cost technology to transform Australia to a lower-emissions economy, followed by nuclear power and then gas.
The report uses lower cost estimates for clean-coal technology than the Switkowski review of nuclear energy in Australia and also assumes that nuclear technology is not available until 2020.
Like that report, the ESAA finds that nuclear energy is likely to be a cost-competitive energy source in Australia under a 30 per cent emissions-cut scenario, predicted to supply about 20 per cent of Australia’s base-load energy needs if allowed.
The only big winner in the renewable energy sector is geothermal or hot-rocks technology, which is tipped to reach about 7 per cent of total supply by 2030.
Based on cost, wind and solar energy cannot compete with clean coal and nuclear by 2030, with wind reaching about 5 per cent of the market only if these two options are not available.
ESAA chief executive Brad Page said the report, based on best available estimates of costs and technology changes, demonstrated the need to develop the widest portfolio of technologies possible to minimise the cost of greenhouse emissions cuts.
He said the research did not mean Australia should not pursue development of solar and wind technologies, but that they were likely to play a greater role in the longer term when they became more cost effective.
“Over the next 25 years, if you are seeking to achieve fairly deep cuts in emissions, then polices that favour a particular renewable technology are probably poor choices,” he said.
“It’s a good way of imposing a greater cost on the community than it needs to be exposed to, to achieve emission cuts.”
WWF chief executive Greg Bourne remained opposed to nuclear energy and called for market mechanisms to accelerate the development of lower-emissions technologies.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Hendy said the research reinforced the need for Australia to be part of a global initiative to cut emissions.
The research comes ahead of the release on Friday by the world’s leading body of climate scientists – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – of a report that will forecast almost inevitable global temperature rises this century of between 2C and 4.5C as a result of human-induced climate change.
– The Australian and AAP
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