Electrical energy will cost more in the future
So Australia has now ratified the Kyoto Protocol. This is a
largely symbolic move but it is the start of many developments on the energy
scene. The Federal Government has also promised to set up a carbon trading
scheme by 2010 and following the Bali climate change conference, Australia will
set greenhouse gas emissions targets, after a report by Professor Ross Garnaut.
At this early stage, it looks as though the new Federal Government is taking a
conservative approach but they could well turn around and set quite ambitious
At the same time, the New South Wales government has just
decided to sell its electricity generating assets to private enterprise and
Queensland will probably follow within a few years.
All of these developments will inevitably mean that electricity
and other forms of energy will be more expensive in the future. Regardless of
how you view the prospect of rising energy prices, there will be some positive
results. For a start, carbon emissions trading means all those carbon emissions
will have a price. So private enterprise owners of power stations will look very
carefully at their operations.
They are most unlikely to build any new coal-fired power
stations; we at SILICON CHIP have been advocating this
for years. They may well decide to shut down older less-efficient power stations
too. In particular, Victoria’s brown coal power stations could well get the chop
and quite soon. Ultimately, all coal-fired power stations will be phased out
although that will probably take 30 years or more.
All new thermal power stations will be gas-fired and are likely
to be much more efficient, particularly if co-generation is used, ie, waste heat
from the gas turbines is used to run steam-powered alternators. In the longer
term, we may also have nuclear power stations. Interestingly, if most of the
electricity generated in the future comes from gas-fired stations, that will
probably mean the end of "off-peak" power rates as we now know them. This is
because, unlike coal-fired power stations, gas-fired power stations can be
brought on line quickly and so there is less need to provide "spinning reserve"
– which is why we presently have such cheap "off-peak" rates.
With the likely end of "off-peak" rates and generally higher
charges for electricity, there will probably be a major move into solar hot
water for all homes and apartment blocks. And so it will go. You will be less
likely to use electric radiators in the future. Instead, home heating will be by
gas or reverse-cycle air conditioning. We will also insulate our homes much
better in the future.
We will probably see a lot more wind farms and solar thermal
power stations too. And what about geothermal energy? This shows enormous
potential but at the moment, it is just that: potential. If we are going to get
any geothermal energy within the next decade, the companies concerned will need
to make huge investments. If they succeed, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions
due to electricity generation could be greatly reduced.
That will leave transportation, industry, agriculture and
mining as the big greenhouse gas emitters. And while much of Australia’s
industries may well be able to make big reductions in emissions in the future,
obtaining major cuts for transportation, agriculture and mining is likely to be
far more difficult. Electric cars are bound to become commonplace (in spite of
the doubters!) but even widespread use will not make a great difference to the
total emissions from the whole of transportation.
All up, we regard theses developments as positive. There will
be enormous investment in energy resources and power generation and at the same
time, we will inevitably become more conservation minded – that can only be