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Future shock - where are we going with renewables?


 
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Dr Mark Diesendorf from the Institute of Environment Studies at the University of NSW casts a critical eye over Australia’s response to climate change, aided by the publication of his book Greenhouse Solutions With Sustainable Energy.
    
Following the publication of his book in 2007, Dr Diesendorf has been holding talks, lectures and seminars all over Australia and with all ranges of people, from politicians to community groups. He has been in great demand and will be the keynote speaker at the July conference of the Australian Association for Environmental Education, being held in Darwin.

 
What is most interesting is the way that local government and local communities have taken up the challenges that do not seem to have great traction in other spheres of government.

Local government, responsible for development approvals and local transport, holds an important strategic role in the reduction of greenhouse gases, yet is not given adequate resources to take advantage of this role.

Left: Starfish Hill Windfarm.  Photos from Mark Diesendorf

 
Dr Diesendorf is less impressed with the efforts of state and federal governments. New South Wales trumpets the fact that its new desalination plant will be supplied with wind power, despite the dubious benefits of the project and is extremely keen to privatise the electricity industry at a time when renewable energy, such as wind power, should be being planned as an alternative to coal-fired power stations. Dr Diesendorf believes that good wind power sites should not be wasted on possible nonessential projects like the desalination plant but rather be used to supply alternative green power for the grid..

 
He is not particularly impressed by the new Rudd government either. Whilst frustrated at the piecemeal approach of the previous government and the subsequent buckets of money seen in the approach to the election, he says that the Rudd government is implementing change incredibly slowly. No emissions trading scheme is planned before 2010 and there will not be an extension of the mandatory renewable energy targets until next year.

 
Little was mentioned in the latest budget. It seems that everyone is waiting for Professor Garnaut’s report, a rather convenient excuse according to Dr Diesendorf, who says that there are many other matters that could be tackled that don’t involve emissions trading.

He is alarmed that the Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, is distancing herself from Professor Garnaut’s report. He has seen many positive changes in his travels around Australia and as one of the world’s worst emitters of greenhouse gases believes that Australia should be doing much more to fix its own backyard.

 

Greenhouse Solutions With Sustainable Energy, published by UNSW Press in 2007, has an important role in advancing our knowledge of energy in the future.

Text: V.B. May 2008


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