Powering Australia from 100% renewable energy is no longer ambitious.
We have more sun, wind and hydro resources than coal, gas and oil combined. And with vision and ambition, we can become the world’s renewable energy superpower.
This is the inspiring takeaway from software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who I heard speak at Al Gore’s Climate Leadership Training in Brisbane recently.
In 2017, Atlassian’s founder famously dared tech tycoon Elon Musk to build the world’s largest battery in South Australia. Now Cannon-Brookes has set a new challenge: exporting renewable energy by undersea transmission lines or with hydrogen and ammonia technologies currently being trialled and tested by CSIRO.
While building under-sea cables are still an engineering stretch, there are other projects we can pursue: like connecting our grid from coast to coast. The sun shines for three hours in the west after it has set in our main capital cities, for instance, providing that all important firming without the need for batteries.
Australia is already on track to achieve 50% renewable electricity by 2030 without federal government policies. Where once renewable energy was an item to tick off the CSR agenda, today it’s about saving money through cheaper power.
And a growing list of companies, including Atlassian, are signatories to RE100. Since RE100 launched four years ago, 179 companies – three quarters of them with footprints in Australia and many committed members of CitySwitch – have promised to use 100% renewable electricity by 2030.
Sydney is well placed to lead in the green economy
Meanwhile, green jobs are growing. And these jobs – whether in professional services or higher education, engineering, finance, marketing, sales or technology – are at the heart of shifting our entire system.
The International Labour Organization has found action on climate offers potential to create new jobs and industries in our cities and our regions. “When growth is decoupled from emissions it can promote employment in low-emission sectors, promoting labour market outcomes and decent work,” the report says.
We can transform the regions that underpin Australia’s $70 billion coal industry into centres of renewable energy. Towns with a proud energy history can continue that tradition – but mining solar rather than coal.
Modelling shows carbon offsets could generate $8 billion for Queensland, and improve agriculture and biodiversity
Energetics’ Carbon Farming report (2017) shows the growing carbon credits market can support our regions with new income streams for drought-ravaged farmers which also enhance agricultural practices, productivity and biodiversity. What we actually call the “co-benefits” of climate action are actually real benefits.
My message to the market is clear. You don’t have to care about climate. You can care about creating new jobs, saving money, boosting productivity or building new industries. The renewable revolution presents infinite economic opportunities. Let’s work together to grab them.