Renewable energy is frequently lauded as the “future,” but some may ask why it hasn’t arrived yet. Even though solar arrays, wind farms, pumped hydro, and electric cars are not brand-new technology, fossil fuels still accounted for roughly 76 percent of the energy produced in Australia in 2021. Professor Alistair Sproul, Head of School at UNSW’s School of the Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE), believes that the falling cost of renewable energy production currently makes coal and gas inevitable be phased out in the near future.
Professor Sproul believes that simple economics will become the tipping point in the transition to renewables and that the energy transition will happen far faster than many people imagine. “We can and will make the shift to 100% green, clean, renewable energy without breaking the bank,” he claims.
“Right now, the dollars, as well as cents, are on our side, and the market is moving right in front of everyone’s eyes, so I believe it will happen sooner than most people expect.
Companies that invested in coal might have thought they’d be profitable for next ten to fifteen years, but now they’re losing money like crazy – and that’s driving some of the adjustments.”
Professor Renate Egan, director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at UNSW, agrees that affordable renewable energy can catalyst change. However, she also believes that people’s individual actions will hasten the transition away from fossil fuels. Prof. Egan says, “Solar energy is now extraordinarily cheap to generate, so if you can utilize it, you should.”
“Fossil fuel plants must eventually be retired, and people should be optimistic that they can be able to make a difference by modifying how they heat and cool their homes or shifting to an electric vehicle. All of those decisions have an effect.” In this video, Professors Sproul and Egan assist in addressing some common questions regarding renewable energy’s past, present, and future.
Why hasn’t 100 percent renewable energy been attained yet? The main cause is the existing infrastructure’s sunk costs, which have been in place for years.
However, research reveals that there has been a rising unwillingness to invest additional money in that aging infrastructure in the previous ten years, as well as a growing knowledge that the future is going to be powered by renewable energy. Building a whole new energy business takes time, and it has taken decades for renewable energy in Australia to grow from absolutely nothing to roughly 24% of total electricity generation in 2021.
While solar and wind power are increasingly cost-competitive, there are still specific engineering and business barriers to overcome before we can achieve 100% renewable energy. None of them are unbeatable.