Energy

1. Renewable Energy

1.1: Increase the renewable energy target to 800% of Australia’s electricity demand, to create energy exports and the industry of the future.

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Renewable energy as a share of total electricity generation in Australia has increased very modestly from 10% in 1990 to 15% in 2016. Most of the additional renewable energy is wind-generated.

Australia’s unique mix of natural renewable resources will allow us to de-carbonise our economy simply once there is widespread political support to do so. Fossil fuel exports currently make up a large percentage of Australia’s economic output (18% of commodities exports in 2016–17; Composition of Trade Australia), but over the coming years the world will transition away from these energy sources. Drastically ramping up renewable energy production will allow us to build a new industry to maintain economic stability, and export excess energy to the world.

As a country with a large agricultural greenhouse footprint, Australia needs to exceed 100% carbon-free energy to become a net zero emitter.

Australia must also transition swiftly to electric vehicles to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. This will require a large ramp-up in electricity generation.

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1.2: Government to support a renewable Hydrogen and Ammonia energy industry.

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The Chief Scientist released a roadmap for creating an industry based on the production and supply of Hydrogen domestically and internationally.

Countries such as Japan and Korea have large energy demands, which will be difficult to replace with carbon-free sources unless a secure supply chain of carbon-free fuel is available. Japan has begun to reduce its reliance on nuclear energy, and will need to import energy because they lack the abundance of solar resources that Australia has.

Prior to the development of the international supply chain, generated hydrogen can initially be used in the domestic economy by adding it to the natural gas supply.

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1.3: Invest in Research and Education.

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As the world transitions away from fossil fuels the demand for ultra-high-efficiency renewable sources will increase dramatically. By investing heavily in research in these fields, Australia can once again become the source for expert knowledge, and export this knowledge through superior products and our universities.

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2. Carbon Price

2.1: Introduce a Cap-and-Trade Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to bring whole-of-economy greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2040, and an agency to monitor and enforce emission limits.

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Members of all sides of politics have supported an emissions-trading-scheme as an efficient method of reducing emissions in a technology-agnostic way. Setting up the scheme to measure and limit emissions directly eliminates the distortions that may occur by giving subsidies to specific industries such as solar or wind energy.

By using a cap-and-trade scheme, the emissions cap can be tuned over time to achieve the reductions in emissions that are required to meet international agreements. This system allows for the possibility that heavy carbon-emitters may remain in operation if offset by cheaper carbon-sequestration technology, but equally may force them to shut down if they can not afford the carbon price.

The introduction of an ETS opens up the possibility of a global market to trade emissions, which is not possible with individual taxes or subsidies.

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2.2: Move to the best available carbon pricing alternative when possible.

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Previous parliaments have voted against effective carbon prices, rejecting good solutions while holding out for a perfect solution. The Science Party will take any small step in the direction of progress, and then continue to negotiate for better solutions as they become available.

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2.3: Eliminate subsidies for fossil fuel industry.

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An independent report identified $11.5 billion in state government subsidies to the coal, gas and petroleum industries in 2014, while noting that the full extent of subsidies in this sector is likely unknown.

In addition to direct subsidies, implicit and explicit guarantees, underwriting, and government investment in fossil fuel industries distort the operating environment, propping up an industry that may otherwise not be economically viable.

Eliminating these subsidies would free up resources for research, investment in new industries, and environmental rehabilitation.

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3. Grid Reliability and Prices

3.1: Promote excess energy generation for reliability and lower costs.

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Energy production is typically discussed in terms of a minimum base-load power, with additional requirements that vary depending on the time of day and consumer demand. By promoting an extremely high level of base generation, energy production may far exceed basic consumer demand and will lead to lower prices. Excess generated energy may then be utilised by demand response mechanisms, such as pumping for storage, heating, or high-energy processes like hydrolysis and water desalination, which themselves may become economical with the abundant supply.

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3.2: Develop renewable energy zones and improve transmission infrastructure between all major centers.

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Without robust transmission infrastructure, some of the energy generated will be lost between the source and its destination. Current transmission paths need to be augmented to account for increasing energy demands, and to ensure high reliability of connections.

In addition to current transmission pathways, locations that are optimal for renewable energy generation should be determined and connected with sufficient capacity to support long-term future generation development in the zone.

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3.3: Construct storage in the form of additional pumped hydro, microgrids and district-based batteries.

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Energy storage is the key to reliable and efficient grids, and requires storage of many different scales for correct operation. Hydroelectric power provides very large storage capacities, while smaller battery systems provide the instantaneous power-flow needed when large changes in demand or supply hit the grid.

Constructing energy storage facilities both near the point of generation and point of use allows the most efficient transmission of energy, and prevents heavy congestion of transmission lines which can lead to circuit-trips and higher energy prices.

Micro-grids of individual households supplying energy to one another in their area should be encouraged, and protocols for exchanging energy credits and payments standardised.

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3.4: Construct high-voltage direct current (HVDC) connections between the electricity grids of the East Coast, South Australia, West Coast, and our Asian neighbours.

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Electricity networks that connect diverse geographical locations ensure that any localised distribution or generation issues do not cause widespread blackouts. Additionally, they smooth out the variability of renewable energy sources, as weather systems and solar irradiance differ across the network at any point in time, and smooth out demand across the network, as peak demand is spread across different time zones.

Connecting a HVDC submarine cable to our Asian neighbours in the same way that Tasmania is connected to the mainland will also boost efficiency and reliability by diversification, while exporting excess power internationally.

The South Australian electricity transmission company ElectraNet has assessed a proposal for a HVDC transmission link between Adelaide and Wagga Wagga, with a branch to Red Cliffs. The estimated project cost is $1.5 billion and the estimated benefit to the economy is $2.45 billion. Given the distances involved, a HVDC connection between WA and NSW could be expected to cost approximately $10 billion. These costs would be paid for by a tariff on the energy flow between connected regions.

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4. Nuclear Energy

4.1: Support the Australian Fusion Strategy developed by the Australian ITER Forum, in order to increase Australia’s contribution to international fusion research projects.

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Harnessing nuclear fusion would give us near-limitless clean energy. Australia should increase its involvement in nuclear fusion research, and encourage other nations to follow suit.

Individual Australian researchers are involved in the effort. A national strategy would provide certainty for these research teams and help to advance the state of fusion energy technology.

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4.2: Remove the ban on nuclear energy, by repealing section 140A of the Environmental Protection Act, to allow all options to be considered while making future energy policy.

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The possibility of a nuclear accident is a consistent objection to the construction of new plants. Australia, however, exists in a tectonically stable zone which minimises the possibility of accidents due to earthquake or tsunami, and modern control system and reactor designs greatly reduce the possibility of nuclear incidents.

Newer nuclear fission reactor designs minimise the amount and radioactivity of nuclear power plant waste (and therefore the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation from spent fuel).

The Science Party believes that there are many considerations when determining the energy mix for Australia. The objective of the Science Party is to minimise global warming and other pollution, while making energy cheap, reliable, and plentiful. As such, we would consider the time to deployment and the overall cost of any energy solution.
The Science Party party is neither ideologically opposed to or ideologically in favour of the use nuclear power as a substantial part of the Australian energy mix. Rather, we want all options to be decided on based on reason, not on whether an energy source is arbitrarily classified as illegal at the point in time.

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4.3: Construct Fission reactors for research, and if commercially and technically viable, for supplying part of our energy needs.

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A sub-scale demonstration reactor according to the most promising cutting-edge design could operate below the power of a standard commercial nuclear power plant. The creation of a research centre in Australia dedicated to the development of such a reactor would focus attention on Australia as a country of innovation, and generate valuable knowledge for the nation.

The Science Party recognises that local communities often strongly oppose the installation of nuclear facilities. Thus, we would conduct a nationwide search for reactor sites that are both technically feasible and where the impact on population is acceptable.

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