Roadmap for Australia’s energy future

Energy Matters0

By 2015, concentrating solar power will be cheaper than carbon capture and storage coal-fired power. This is very important. Power plants take a long to time to plan and build. A new power plant proposed today would be lucky to get on line by 2011. Given that few new coal-fired power plants are expected in Australia until about 2015-2020, the earliest time in which still untested carbon capture and storage might be available, so called ‘clean coal’ will be priced out of the market by cheaper solar.

This is demonstrated in the graph at right below. At present, concentrating solar power costs somewhere beween A12-16c per kilowatthour. But this is falling by seven percent per year, making its downward price course quite rapid. Solar photovoltaics is also falling in price quite rapidly, but from a higher base. Given the slow-to-fall prices of carbon capture and storage as estimated by experts, solar will ‘cross over’ so-called ‘clean coal’ before ‘clean coal’ is even ready.

By 2015, CSP will be cheaper than clean coal. By 2020 it will be cheaper than nuclear

Concentrating solar power is the conservative, low cost option for Australia’s future power supplies. The coal industry acknowledges CSP is proven (unlike carbon capture and storage — see quote at left) and the costs of concentrating solar power are low. The sooner Australia invests in concentrating solar power, the sooner it can reap the benefits of low and stable energy costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

It all adds up to a very positive value equation, particularly given that concentrating solar power is proven and carbon capture and nuclear (ie the next generation of nuclear plants) are not. Better yet, investment is now pouring into renewable energy overseas, and overseas research has shown that solar power power investments have a much larger beneficial impact on the regional economies where they are located than fossil fuel plants (right). This means that renewable energy projects such as wind and other renewables like concentrating solar power have a positive multiplier effect on their host regions.

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