Here at WWF-Australia, we’ve heard just about every myth under the sun about renewable energy - from it costing the same as a small planet, to it only being useful during daylight hours. Next we’ll hear that too much wind energy will blow the planet out of orbit and solar will fry us all. Before we get to that stage, let’s set the record straight. Here are some of the more common myths, with some cool-headed facts…
Myth: Only coal can provide 24 hour (baseload) power.
Fact: Wind and hydro can operate all hours and most energy is used during the daytime.
Of course technologies like hydro, geothermal and wind across the country can run 24 hours, so it’s just plain wrong to say otherwise. Also, it just so happens that the peak period for energy use – hot days in the early afternoon when everyone turns on their air-con – is also the best time for energy production from solar. Perfect!
Even the experts think so.
Myth: Wind & solar are an expensive way to make energy.
Fact: Solar and wind energy can be cost-competitive or even cheaper than fossil fuel sources.
The 1.6 million Australian households with solar PV have already worked out that solar is cost competitive and saves them money. By 2020, the cheapest source of energy flowing into the grid is likely to be on-shore wind. Bloomberg New Energy Finance calculated that the cost of a new solar or wind plant is cheaper than a new coal plant. We also need to remember the cost of negative externalities, that the on-paper cost of coal and gas-fired power production does not take into account its environmental and social costs, including water and air pollution, the health impacts of mining coal, and the loss of arable land.
Myth: High electricity bills are because of renewable subsidies.
Fact: The largest component of electricity price rises is network charges.
The biggest contributor to price hikes over the last five years is the increasing cost of ‘poles and wires’. And the main reason these need to be upgraded is to cope with ‘peak’ power - those few hours a year when it gets super hot and everyone switches on air-con.
Myth: Renewable power is unreliable.
Fact: An optimised mix of renewables and storage technologies can deliver reliable energy all the time.
We have the world-class technology, the talent, the space and the wind, hydro and solar resources to meet much more of our energy needs from renewable sources. The biggest demand for electricity is during the daytime, when sunlight is ordinarily available for solar energy production. Wind and hydro can operate all hours, and the cost of battery storage has come down dramatically to store electricity generated during the day.
We could power Australia using a smart mix of renewable energy, a modern, responsive grid, and energy storage solutions.
On some days, South Australia gets 80% of its power from renewable sources, and Tasmania has relied on 100% renewable energy for days on end. Just look at what the world’s largest battery storage facility has done in South Australia.
So yes, we do have the solutions. Renewables like wind, solar and hydro really can provide the answers to our energy needs. We just need to take that next step forward, away from fossil fuels and into the future!
Taking steps to help the planet can start right away. Register for Earth Hour and add your voice to millions of others. This year, switch off and #Connect2Earth