<a href="http://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/leon#">The Business of Green</a>

The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

Solar boost

solar

Credit: sxc.hu

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We are now witnessing what looks like an astonishing boom in renewables.

The Clean Energy Council has released a report showing that Australia’s ambition is to source 20 per cent of its power from renewables by 2020. The report found significantly more wind-power generated compared to the year before but its relative contribution fell slightly to 21.9 per cent due to the increased contribution of hydro. Wind was followed by bioenergy (8.5 per cent) and PV power (2.3 per cent).

But the big highlight is the growth of solar power following record installations in 2010, when 380MW was added. Driven by state feed-in tariffs, 1.03GW of solar power was in place across Australia by the end of August. That represents more than half a million household systems – more than nine times the amount installed at the end of 2009.

But with the state of the global economy, questions are being raised about whether this can continue. The International Energy Agency says that the European debt crisis, and the subsequent fallout around the world, will almost certainly lead to smaller subsidies for renewable energy such as solar and wind power, and that in turn would push up their costs. That will make solar and renewables a less attractive option.

And you have to wonder whether the growth in renewables is having any impact. A study shows
Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, excluding forests and the land, were 75 per cent higher in 2008 than in 1990.

Chief climate commissioner Tim Flannery says that climate action is a slow process, it takes time. "This is a long process, no one country or action can solve it," he said. "The point is, this is the first step in a long trajectory of change."

At the same time, global carbon dioxide emissions surpassed nine billion tonnes last year, a new record high, according to a new report. Carbon emissions — from fossil-fuel combustion and cement production — exploded in 2010 by 5.9 per cent. That’s the largest annual growth since 2003.

It’s too early to celebrate the boom in renewables. A lot more work needs to be done.