Call to action: Smart Energy Council

We can easily transition to renewables, it is simpler than it looks; we already have the engineering capabilities; and the economics makes sense. Last week’s Smart Energy Summit delivered many salient messages. But in the absence of federal leadership, big business, technical innovators, scientists and others committed to a smarter, brighter future are spearheading change.

 

Never has it been more timely, with bushfires raging cross the country and smoke choking the city. The Smart Energy Council could not have picked a better – or indeed worse – day for the summit that packed the Hilton conference rooms.

 

The day kicked off with the powerful address by NSW Environment and Energy Minister Matt Kean who declared, “It is time to win the climate wars”.

 

“We need to take advantage of the huge economic opportunities that zero emissions will bring … we can be the Middle East of energy. We are missing the big picture – the opportunity to create export markets for greater prosperity. The energy iPhone is on the way,” he said. His messages created a tidal wave of comment and as one prominent columnist noted, with Kean flagging NSW plans to strengthen its stand and in so doing showing up the federal government for its lack of a plan.

 

Malcolm Turnbull was on a similar wavelength to Matt Kean, saying “Responding to climate change should be about physics and heeding the IPCC report that states with 95 per cent probability that humans have caused climate warming. This is an issue that should be recognised as fact and we need to consider risk assessment rather get mired in politics, beliefs, values and religion.

 

“The marginal cost of renewable generation is what’s important – and it is zero given there is no fuel cost which is why we need to plan for storage,” the former Prime Minister said. “There are enormous economic opportunities for Australia to become a powerhouse … politics is the only thing holding us back.”

 

Malcolm Turnbull's speech can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/379193066 

 

Also with an eye on the future, Audrey Zibelman focused on the market drives of change, from coal plant retirement of 11500 MW and the democratisation of energy: “We have to put the smart in smart energy, the digitalisation of energy to make sure we use it better and put intelligence into the networks,” she said. “We need the computing capability with artificial intelligence to provide mass data for a much more productive system.

 

“We need targeted investment in RE and transmission networks to move the energy …  We need to first build the networks to connect the system.”

 

John Hewson echoed the words of Malcolm Turnbull, calling recent decades “a period of lost opportunity” on the basis of prejudice and prayers. Hewson took to the stage alongside student climate activists Jean Hinchcliffe and Estelle Dee – rising stars whose contemporaries fear that with the climate emergency “it’s beginning to feel apocalyptic”.

 

It’s not often you see a one-time contender for Prime Minister comfortably taking the stage alongside student activists. Age gap no barrier: all united in a common belief and purpose: to take action to address the causes of climate change and ramp up renewable energy.

 

The panel presentation can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/smartenergycouncil.

 

The Summit contained many more highlights, with presentations from Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, and king of scientific solar breakthroughs Professor Martin Green, who has devoted a lifetime to the industry and had a significant impact in mitigating climate change by bringing PV to the masses.

 

Anna Rose who leads Farmers for Climate Action urges the community to “Get out of theie comfort zone and be courageous” and says politicians need to do the same.

 

The Summit heard from several industry leaders with visions: Alex Hewitt of the Asian Renewable Energy Hub, Roger Price of Windlab, and Vincent Dwyer of Energy Estate among them. 

 

Smart Energy chief executive John Grimes summed the day’s dynamics by sharing key highlights.

 

“Minister Matt Kean talked about our opportunities to become the Middle East of Renewable Energy. What a fantastic vision, a great notion. We are rich in renewables and we can take it to the world,” he said.

 

“AEMO chief Audrey Zibelman talked about the inevitable closure of coal fired power stations and the rise of solar storage and other renewables that are the cheapest form of electricity going forward.

 

“She runs the network and can see what needs to be done to prepare for the future.

 

“Our former Prime Minister told us that Australia can become an energy powerhouse and that there is a small window of opportunity for a positive turnaround where Australia can be the price takers not the price makers.

 

“And Mike Cannon Brookes covered lots of issues but what struck me is his words ‘if the dream is sufficiently big you will attract the people who will make it real.’ So true.

 

“Together with Professor Martin Green, Dr Zhengrong Shi showed how in one slide solar PV alone increasing at a rate of 20 per cent per annum compounded could single handedly bring down global temperatures by two degrees – what an amazing thing.

 

“And Martin Green talked of efficiency breakthroughs that his lab is working on today that have the capacity to reduce the cost of solar PV by 50 per cent overnight.“

 

No Australians have done more than Professor Martin Green Dr Zhengrong Shi to the effort of global climate action, John Grimes said.

 

“The theme across these and other presentations is that we can do it, it is easier than it looks, and we have the engineering and economics that makes sense.

 

“My dream is this: we need to convince all Australians of the merit of this idea and the imperative to act. We need to provide that strong positive vision of the future … one that people can buy into and get hope from.

 

“Our collective challenge is to amplify in this message for the 300 here to 300,000 young Australians – the climate activists who are young heroes – and for three million Australians to vote on this and make it real.”

 

The work we need to do is to put pressure on our political parties first and foremost is essential, he said, commending the vital work of the Coalition 4 Conservation working inside the National and Liberal parties.

 

“Let’s build the constituency to make change.”