Energy and Climate Change Essay

Over the past years most individuals have become acutely aware that the intensity of human and economic development enjoyed over the 20th century cannot be sustained. Material consumption and ever increasing populations are already stressing the earth’s ecosystems. How much more the earth can take remains a very heated issue. Here a look at the facts sheds some very dark light. In 1950, there were 2. 5 billion people, while today there are 5. 8 billion. There may well be 10 billion people on earth before the middle of the next century.

Even more significant, on an ecological level, is the rise in per capita energy and material consumption which, in the last 40 years, has soared faster than the human population. “An irresistible economy seems to be on a collision course with an immovable ecosphere. ” Based on these facts alone, there is grave reason for concern. It has been figured that Australia’s transport sector is a major contributor towards the energy sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. Wider adoption of gaseous transport fuels would have substantial benefits in reduced carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, lead and particulate emissions.

Gaseous transport fuels also lead to reduced carbon dioxide emissions. A report prepared for the AGA (to be published as an AGA Research Paper) indicates that: NGV tailpipe emissions of carbon monoxide are between 49 and 99 percent lower than from gasoline vehicles; and new generation LPG systems can reduce oxides of nitrogen by 50 percent. The AGA believes that urban air quality would benefit from wider introduction of gaseous transport fuels. Urban transport vehicles based on LPG and NGV can lead to improvements in air quality in the medium and longer term.

This includes use of LPG and NGV in trucks, light commercial vehicles, buses, taxis, business and government fleets and private cars. The Joint Industry Submission on Gaseous Transport Fuels emphasizes that Australia’s gaseous transport fuels industry is still developing and that the industry and users need confidence in the maintenance of Federal petroleum product excise exemption policy, before making multimillion dollar infrastructure and conversion investments.

The submission sets out other measures aimed at ensuring wider adoption of gaseous transport fuels. Appliance approvals Natural gas is expected to increase its share of the market in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. The market opportunities have been analyzed in the Gas Industry Development Strategy 1995-2000, released by the AGA in November 1995. Much of this increased demand will be in urban areas.

AGA’s Environment Policy recognizes the role of appliance standards and Codes and includes a commitment to: “maintain the environment as a high priority in the industry’s own technical codes, standards and equipment approvals which include relevant performance, efficiency and energy labeling criteria in order to have continuous improvement in environmental performance meeting both government requirements and community expectations. The AGA Approval Schemes provide for the testing and approval of a range of residential, recreational, commercial and industrial appliances, to meet the standards of Codes prepared and published by the AGA. The Approval Scheme covers natural gas, towns gas and LPG and includes emission standards appropriate to the type of appliance concerned.

The facilities are cognizant of the capacity of existing and proposed strategies and arrangements, at all levels of government, to reduce air pollution in the identified time frame; of Australia’s longer term objectives in relation to greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable energy policy and international competitiveness; of the economic, social and environmental costs of urban air pollution and of any identified management options; and of the need to identify options which can be undertaken by governments, industry and the community.

The Inquiry’s terms of reference recognize the need to integrate environmental objectives with wider policy objectives including economic, greenhouse and sustainable energy policy. As part of the Gas Industry Development Strategy, the AGA commissioned an independent report on the economic and environmental contribution of the natural gas industry to the Australian economy. This research concluded that a growing natural gas industry contributes positively to both the economy and the environment.

The report examined the implications of attaining the AGA growth goal (ie that the share of natural gas in Australia’s primary energy consumption reaches 20 percent in the year 2000) and concluded that: GDP would rise by around $200 million annually (1993-94 values); and Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by up to five million tonnes annually. Against this background it is important that identification of environmental options by the Inquiry includes development of sensible environment-energy balances, including responses to greenhouse gas emissions.

This approach should apply equally to existing and new markets. For example, in the residential hot water market direct gas use is both more efficient and produces lower overall greenhouse emissions than electric water heating. In gas water heating 73 percent of the energy input is available as hot water, whereas in electric water heating only around 36 percent of the energy input is available to heat water. Environment policy should therefore support fuel switching to environmentally friendly fuels like gas.

Cogeneration also represents an important technology option for achieving a sensible environment-energy balance. Cogeneration systems typically have much higher efficiencies than separate electricity and heat systems, with thermal efficiencies in the range between 65 and 85 percent. There are significant development opportunities for cogeneration in Australia. Over the last few decades, wind power has rarely been used as means of generating electricity. In 1996, the worldwide capacity of wind turbines was approximately 6 Gig watts, contributing less than 1 percent to the total global electrical generation capacity.

However, the wind energy industry is continually growing at a rapid rate. Much of the growth is in European countries such as Holland, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Germany. Denmark, for example, currently obtains about 5 percent of its electricity from wind turbines and aims to increase this to 40 percent by 2030. Interest in wind power is also rapidly growing in countries such as India and China, while Australia is also beginning to pay increasing attention to the concept. Renewable energy (such as wind energy) currently provides about 10. percent of Australia’s electricity generation. Still, Australia has plans for further supply from renewable energy sources, but this depends upon legislation, which will commit electricity suppliers to use an additional 2 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2010. Clearly, interest in wind energy has grown significantly in the past few years. There are probably two main reasons for the increasing interest in wind power. First, most electricity generated today uses non-renewable fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

These contribute vast quantities of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which cause an enhanced greenhouse effect, leading to a warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. Also, since wind is a renewable resource, it can not ‘run out’, so eliminating the possibility of the electrical industry being forced to discover and utilize a new energy source. Secondly, advances in wind power science and technology are reducing the cost of wind power rapidly, making it almost competitive with many other energy sources (at about 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt hour).

The world has long been searching for a non-polluting, renewable source of energy that is as inexpensive as coal and oil, and wind energy seems to provide this. The Australian government, along with industry and consumers, realizes the importance of sustainable development in the electrical provision area. Although Australia is a major exporter of coal, individual Australian companies are recognizing that improved environmental performance is part of their corporate and social responsibility.

Many Australian industries have undertaken voluntary environmental reporting measures as a move towards more positive environmental outcomes in the new millennium. Current efforts towards deregulation of the natural gas and electricity industries may further foster environmental stewardship, as companies promote themselves as being environmentally conscious within their marketing efforts. A significant motive for environmental improvements in Australia will occur with clarification of the federal government’s stance on environmental issues.

Currently, many vital business projects are being delayed while the federal government comes to consensus on the place of renewable energy in Australia’s energy mix. The Australian government’s lack of consensus on taxation and environmental issues has threatened several oil and gas projects, including the North West Shelf expansion, Gorgon gas field development, Bayu Undan, PNG Gas Pipeline, Methanex’s Syngas facility in Darwin and Duke Energy’s Bass Strait Pipeline. Australia will obviously be a key player in any international discussions regarding climate change.

Although Australia contributed only 1. 4 percent of the world’s total energy-related carbon emissions in 1998, the capacity of Australia’s forests and agricultural lands to absorb carbon dioxide places the country in the center of any discussions regarding environmental effects. The Australian government further emphasized recently its commitment to carbon sequestration through a $400-million greenhouse gas abatement program that was scheduled to begin on July 1, 2000, and primarily focused on taking advantage of sequestration opportunities over the next four years.

Australian Cabinet has also has endorsed a $900-million measure to facilitate a greener Australia in the 21st century. Initiatives include financial incentives to encourage commercial vehicle operators to convert from gasoline to cleaner alternative fuels and guidelines to improve the recycling of waste oil, clearly highlighting Australia’s commitment to environmentally friendly energy sources. Although the generation of electricity from wind turbines has been economically marginal for many years, the future looks quite optimistic following the development of large-scale systems in Australia.

Improved subsystem technologies, the move towards mass production and installation experience are all serving to reduce costs significantly and wind turbines have become competitive with conventional-fuelled systems in some geographical areas. Until recently, small-scale power generation in remote areas was mainly supplied through liquid-fuelled systems. Many remote area power supplies (RAPS) combining wind and photovoltaic with diesel backup are now being installed.

In the future, it appears that with reducing costs, photovoltaic may displace wind at lower power levels, in areas with good insulation. The outlook for large grid-connected wind farms is also promising, with several utilities operating wind monitoring stations at the present moment. In October 2000, a new wind farm opened at Blayney, west of Bathurst NSW, the fruit of a joint project from Pacific Power and Advance Energy. Careful monitoring and analysis over several years by The CSIRO Wind Energy Research Unit determined the best location and layout of the turbines, that being Blayney.

The farm consists of 15 turbines and is of 10 megawatts capacity, twice the size of the existing Crookwell wind farm, which was previously the largest wind farm. The Crookwell farm in NSW consists of eight 600 kilowatt turbines generating a total of 4. 8 megawatts. There are also a number of other large-scale wind farms in Australia, another is Western Power’s Ten Mile Lagoon farm located near Esperance on the south coast of Western Australia which has nine 225 kilowatt wind turbines, generating a total of 2 megawatts.

The additional 10 megawatts recently installed in Blanley has doubled Australia’s installed capacity of wind generation to 20 megawatts. However, Australia’s biggest wind-powered electricity generating system is to be built by state-owned utility Western Power near Albany in Western Australia. This wind farm will cost $45 million, and will begin production by next July. It will contain 12 turbines on 65 meter towers producing a collective 22 megawatts of power.

There are claims the new station will produce enough electricity for 17,000 homes, or 75 percent of Albany’s electrical requirements. Wind energy has proven to be a viable option for electricity in many parts of the world. Continued use of this clean energy provider will result in the elimination of pollution omitted by other energy production methods. So, essentially, wind turbines possess the potential to produce much of the worlds energy needs in a responsible, economic and environmentally friendly manner.