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Oh what to do?

Charles MacFarland, Ewingsdale

I’m glad that Matthew Lambourne picked up on one of my pessimistic statements about what to do about climate change.

I wanted to promote practical discussions, instead of emotional outbreaks, and his article does this very well, discussing electricity storage.

He cites the Tesla battery in South Australia, which is great, but it is also a good example of how big the problem is. It stores 129 megawatt-hours at a cost of $100 million. As he says, ‘Australia needs about 450 GWh of storage to support a 100 per cent renewable electricity system’, so we would need 3,500 of those batteries. Do the maths.

Pumped hydro sites are also very promising, but at what cost? Currently they average around $200 per kilowatt-hour, so they would cost around 90 billion dollars.

What about the cost of the renewables themselves? A typical power plant produces about 1000 megawatts, and a solar plant of this size costs about two billion dollars. To replace our coal plants, we would need about 30 such plants (or other renewable plants of equal size).

This sort of investment is probably possible for Australia, if we can generate the political will. But what about India? They will need about 500 such plants in the next decade (according to the MIT Technology Review) just to keep up with increasing demand (because of population increase and rising standards of living).China and the US will need even more. Is that likely?

In Australia, we could stop carbon emissions from cars if everyone bought an electric (cost perhaps $35,000) and built a solar fixture to charge it (perhaps $10,000?). Ten million cars would cost $450 billion, nearly as much as the annual federal budget.

Demanding action from politicians is a good start, but we also need to change our lives through and through.


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