Sunday, May 10, 2009

No Single Solution to Energy Problem

WIDESPREAD blackouts across Adelaide, Victoria and Sydney over the past months have intensified debate over the best solution to Australia's energy supply problem.

Despite EnergyAustralia's confidence that demands for electricity can now be met with ample supply, claims that interruptions were merely highly unusual faults have come into question.

“As air-conditioners are replaced with heaters, households and businesses want the guarantee of a steady electricity supply for winter,” Energy Matters marketing manager, Andrew Scarlett said.

Michael Kilgariff, director of energy policy for Energy Networks Association, thinks EnergyAustralia's $1.13 billion capital works program bid to upgrade electricity networks in response to the Sydney blackouts is not the solution.

“The blackouts reflect the energy sectors need to upgrade aging infrastructure rather than build more coal-fired power stations,” Mr Kilgariff said.

“To meet long-term challenges, the most innovative technologies must be utilised, away from traditional investment in poles, pipes and wires.”

The Rudd Government's Energy Efficient Homes package provides one form of stimulus for households and businesses to take a pro-active approach towards energy conservation.

Matthew Wright, director of Eureka Insulation, said insulation is one of the most cost effective ways to reduce unnecessary energy wastage and improve energy efficiency.

“Insulation is a win-win solution; individuals save on energy bills while easing pressures on the electricity grid,” Mr Wright said.

Associate Professor Richard de Dear, from the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney, believes there is more work to be done.

“Insulation rebates are a sensible demand-side policy, however, it remains to be seen whether it will dampen peak electricity demand on a scale that would avert power blackouts,” Dr de Dear said.

Individuals and communities are sporadically employing innovative technologies that harness renewable energy.

In 2007, Townsville began a $30 million investment project in solar systems to become the first 'solar city'.

Mr Scarlett sees these instances as stories of hope but said the federal government needs to apply ideas such as 'solar city' to a nation-wide policy framework.

“With Australia's abundance of roof space and sun, it is ludicrous not to utilise zero emission technologies such as solar and wind power,” he said.

“In the large scheme of things, with common consensus in scientific opinion that climate change is a problem in need of addressing, the government doesn't have time to not make it right.”

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