I am one of millions that are passionate about the beauty and health of the Great Barrier Reef. I am very concerned that the health of our reef is poor and declining, and together we are not doing enough, or fast enough to turn the tide, change attitudes and improve its future health.
In my opinion we are yet to focus on a great opportunity to address climate change and renewable energy which could increase resilience and health of the reef, industries and communities.
Fact- Renewable energy is a sustainable activity that is a huge opportunity for our generation with economic, environmental, social and political benefits.
Globally, the installation of renewable energy has increased by 16 per cent to US$310 billion in 2014. The Australian renewable energy industry employed just over 20,000 people and invested approximately $2.54 billion in the 2014. Renewable energy provided 13.47 per cent of Australia’s electricity in 2014, enough to provide power for the equivalent of approximately 4.5 million average homes. The leading state is Tasmania (95%) with Queensland a long way behind at 7% renewable.
Positive drivers for change- There are many drivers for the future shift towards renewable technologies, including government policies, public support, falling renewable energy costs, rising fossil fuel costs, carbon reduction policies, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, prevention of biodiversity loss, improved health, job creation, rural development, and energy access. Of course there are also barriers and costs for change.
Key government initiatives to support the transition to renewable energy include the Renewable Energy Target (RET), the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). There are also community led initiatives such as 100% Renewable, Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA) and Embark.
There has been some excellent work done on renewable energy on Australian islands including Lord Howe, King, Flinders, Rottnest, Lady Elliot, Low Isles and Thursday Island. Of course we can always do more at these remote locations and the challenge is to be strategic in planning.
The marine renewable story is yet to be developed in Australia. There is one leading company, Carnegie Wave Energy in WA that has constructed a wave energy plant. It is only a matter of time before we have plans and support for tidal, offshore wind and hybrid systems in Australian waters.
Questions for the future- What, why, how and when can we discuss the future of renewable energy for Australia and local communities? How do we translate these conversations to actions?
I am proud to say that I am part of a small team who are serious about working collaboratively and making a difference and we have taken a step along the journey by organising a Renewable Reef Futures workshop in Townsville on 15 October. You can be involved and join us in this journey by filling out a survey, attending the workshop or offering comments or advice.