There is no doubt that a transition to a 100% renewables electricity sector will have its challenges. Any transformation at such a system-wide scale will. It will require courage, the best minds from a range of disciplines, and social and political will. We will also need tools which can test policy alternatives to inform our decisions.
Our latest research builds such capacity. We’ve used it to answer some of the questions that remained about the technical capability of implementing a 100% renewables electricity supply for Australia. Our research conservatively assumes only the use of 1) currently available, economically operating technologies and 2) proven resources. Our detailed analysis across the whole of the Australian continent at time increments of 1 hour, simulates generator and transmission network locations, technologies and capacities.
One scenario we investigated shows that nation-wide, low-carbon electricity supply is possible at about 160 GW installed capacity (about 2.5-3 times what it is today) and at a generation cost of around 20 ¢/kWh, involving wind, concentrating solar, rooftop and PV utilities. The storage of renewable energy using hydro and biofuel plants is critical to ‘plug gaps’ caused by occasional low-resource periods. With improvements in technology (not taken into account in our research) the future is even brighter for a 100% renewables future in Australia.
We do not need perfect knowledge before we begin the transition to a more sustainable future – complex issues, by definition, all face the challenge of incomplete knowledge. Robust decisions can be made despite inevitable unknowns. There exist tested decision making approaches which can use uncertainties constructively to strengthen our confidence in achieving the outcomes we desire and envision together. Investigating scenarios that describe a range of possible but uncertain futures, as we have done in our research, is just one.
If you would like to learn more about the possibility of a 100% renewables future for Australia you can watch this summary or you can find our full research paper here. Here’s an article in The Conversation about it too.