Fairfax Tech Talk Column

Fairfax Tech Talk Column

05.6.2020 Fairfax Tech Talk Column 201


I have often mused about the lack of intellectual discourse and logical debate around election time. Three-word catchphrases and headlines seem to dominate the landscape which doesn’t leave a lot of room to demonstrate the development of an idea or a plan. Maybe that suits some political parties who would be exposed if more than a three-word catchphrase was required – but I digress.

Electricity has been a recent election battleground where philosophically opposing views have met practical considerations of turning on the lights.

While the pollies are busy arguing, industry itself will work out the direction. I delivered one of my futurist presentations back in 2017 when I was describing our world in the year 2025. One of my data points was that I predicted that wind and solar would make up over twenty per cent of power production by the year 2025. It was a brave prediction at the time.

The Australian Government has just released information on how our energy was produced last year. Our total energy generation was 265.1TWh – an overall increase of 0.8 per cent. Given our population growth was 1.5 per cent last year, this is an indication of power saving initiatives bearing some fruit.

Coal is still king in Australia with 56.4 per cent of our power produced by burning coal but this has seen a drop over the last year of 4.5 per cent. This is a continuing trend with the reliance on coal reducing by 7.8 per cent over a four-year timeframe. No real surprises with the second largest source of power – gas. It makes up 20.5 per cent of our production which is an increase of 5.8 per cent year on year and a 6.8 per cent four-year increase.

Renewables are where most of the action is at the moment. Wind blows hardest in the renewable space with 7.4 per cent of our power produced with wind turbines. This is a healthy 19 per cent increase over the last year and 64.9 per cent over four years. Solar currently sits at 6.8 per cent of our overall power production but it has increased by 46.2 per cent over the last year and 189.2 per cent over four years. All that rooftop solar is having an impact.

Since 1974 when the Snowy Mountains Scheme in NSW was officially completed, hydro has been an important part of the power mix in this country. Last year generation surprisingly fell by 17.5 per cent although, with a four year rise of 1.6 per cent, I suspect last year was an anomaly and we will see more power flowing this year.

If we break it down to non-renewable power versus renewable power, we start to see a definite trend. Reliance on non-renewable power dropped by 1.7 per cent last year and renewables increased by 11.5 per cent – admittedly from a much lower base. Take a four-year view and you see a 4.4 per cent drop in non-renewables and a massive 54.4 per cent increase in renewable power.

What is the current mix between the two production methods? Drum roll please…Non-renewable power now sits at 79.1 per cent of our production and therefore renewables sit at 20.9 per cent. And what of my 2017 prediction on wind and solar? We are at 14.1 per cent so well on the way to my predicted twenty per cent and, based on current trends, the 50 per cent renewable power by 2030 is no longer a prediction – it is stating the obvious!

I predict that 2026 will be the year we hit fifty per cent but you tell me what year you think we will hit fifty per cent of renewable power production at ask@techtalk.digital.

Mathew Dickerson