Prime Minister John Howard has backed a new energy report which supports his push for nuclear power as a way to combat climate change.
The Energy Supply Association of Australia (ESAA) said that substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions were possible by the year 2030 but it would cost $75 billion.
It also says nuclear power, cleaner coal and gas would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but renewable energy such as wind and solar power would not be cost effective.
“The answer is a greater emphasis on clean coal and nuclear power,” Mr Howard told reporters.
“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 ESAA, which represents more than 40 electricity and downstream gas businesses, says the increasing pressure to restrict emissions from power stations means families will inevitably face higher costs for domestic power bills.
Without expensive new technology, up to 100 per cent of brown coal power stations would have to be shut down by 2030 just to stabilise emissions at 2000 levels, the report says.
Around two thirds of existing black coal power stations – which currently generate about 60 per cent of Australia’s electricity – within current technology would have to close by then as well.
Under the most severe scenario, cleaning up emissions under the expanded requirements of the year 2030 would require an investment of $75 billion.
The federal government has a policy of pouring large sums of money into supporting research into and trials of clean coal technologies.
The ESAA says advanced fossil-fuel technologies, including carbon capture and storage (CCS), are not likely to be commercially available until at least 2020.
But for emissions cuts to be achieved and in a least-cost manner, the widest possible range of generation technologies will be needed, including some not proven or commercially available as yet.
The report said around 15-20 per cent of Australia’s energy supplies by 2030 could be contributed to by nuclear reactors.
ESAA chief executive Brad Page said a price on carbon emissions was inevitable.
Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane rejected the suggestion that adoption of a price on carbon emissions should be done without delay.
“We have put in place the prime minister’s task group on emissions trading and we will give an answer on that as we look through the real issues in relation to carbon trading,” he told ABC radio.
Australian Coal Association executive director Mark O’Neill said the ACA had long held that it was critical that Australia invest in the research and development effort to quickly get new technologies into the marketplace.
“Every analysis that’s out there … has concluded that it’s a way of significantly reducing the cost of achieving any kind of target in this area,” he said.
The Greens said the ESAA report was self-serving, arguing for the nation to put its hopes in CCS while ignoring the potential gains from energy efficiency.
“It is in the interests of the fossil fuel industry to claim that renewable energy and energy efficiency are no solution to climate change and that we must rely instead on an experimental and costly technology,” Greens senator Christine Milne said.
Democrats leader Lyn Allison said the report’s claim that Australia could cut greenhouse emissions by 30 per cent without resorting to nuclear power showed it underestimated the potential for alternative, low and zero emission technologies.
Â© 2007 AAP
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