Achievement of Net Zero in Australia is a no-brainer. Australia is, has been, and continues to be, a net greenhouse gas sink (GHG) with natural sequestration which exceeds domestic emissions. To achieve net zero all that is needed is to do nothing and permit any increases to occur until,at some distant future time, they might rise enough to reach net zero.
1/ The cost of wind and solar power is being grossly misrepresented by citing only the cost of generation when about half of cost of power is in the distribution. The remote scattered nature of wind and solar farms will require a major increase in grid infrastructure.
2/ Worse still, the highly variable and unpredictable nature of wind and solar will require at least a 400 per cent excess of installed generating capacity, plus full back up in dispatchable capacity running in standby mode.
3/ Managing all this and accommodating a huge increase in demand from electric vehicles is going to impose operational complexities orders of magnitude greater than the relatively stable dispatchable power generation and predictable demand of the traditional system.
4/ In addition to the operational challenges, this greatly expanded grid will also entail a significant increase in vulnerability to risks from equipment failures, storms, solar flares, accidents, sabotage, and digital hacking
5/ The necessity for vast areas of unused land for energy farms is going present even more major difficulties. In the North where solar is much stronger and less seasonal solar farms will risk damage from cyclones and occasional multi-day collapses in output due to heavy cloud cover from monsoon troughs in the wet season. Further inland they might escape these. but will then be exposed to occasional violent thunderstorms, hailstorms, and dust storms. Having to clean the dust off thousands of hectares of solar panels will be a decidedly non-trivial task.
6/ Concerns about methane emissions encompass another cloud of misinformation. The IR absorption spectrum of methane is overlapped by that of water vapour, which is also about 10,000 to 20,000 times more abundant in the atmosphere than is methane. No matter how little or how much methane is in the atmosphere, all of the IR in its absorption spectrum is already being absorbed and there can be no additional heating no matter how much methane is present.
7/ Also, the generation of methane by the decomposition of plant material is similar in quantity on vegetated land whether or not it comes from livestock or microbes. The Amazon rainforest is a major global source of methane emissions. In Australia every ant mound is a methane generator assuring that any plant material not eaten by livestock will still be consumed by other organisms and result in methane.
8/ Small modular reactors (SMR) will be an eminently effective solution and their development is well underway. The only real obstacle is unfounded ignorance and ill-informed environmental concerns. However, these will simply evaporate as the increasing costs and blackouts of unreliable RE begin to be the new norm.
9/ The advantages of SMRs will be manifold. In addition to cost and reliability, the ability to easily be located close to wherever power is needed vastly reduces the entire assemblage of massive regional grids along with all their costs, complexities, and vulnerabilities. Better still, full back up could be accommodated by a few mobile units on ships, rail cars or trucks which could quickly be dispatched to provide any emergency need.
10/ Such units are already under development by the US Defence Department (Rolls Royce is a prime contractor). As all of the necessary technology already exists and has an excellent operational record, there is little uncertainty regarding its successful development and initial adoption in the near future.
11/ Acceptance of a necessity for nuclear power has already begun to reach majority status in opinion polls. The main resistance is not the public. It is primarily those with vested interests in RE and among the academically indoctrinated cadres of mainstream media, academia, social activists, and ill-informed politicians pandering to what they think is still a popular position. The widespread availability and adoption of SMR technology will be assured by necessity, economics and the fading of an ideological opposition which has been popular primarily in the more effete politically correct sectors of the developed world.
Net Zero is almost surely destined to become a meme synonym for mindless adherence to impossible aims naively proposed by drones seeking an appearance of virtue and a feeling of ethical superiority. The physical practicality, environmental benefit, economic outcome, and intellectual rigor of the entire drive for renewable energy can indeed be aptly summed up as being a Net Zero.
Somehow, the resonances between Putin’s War, The War on Carbon. and a March of the Lemmings also seems hard to ignore. All are driven by mindless passion at immense cost and no reasonable expectation of any achievable benefit. The path is opening for some new leadership to replace the current herd followers who have somehow stumbled into the vanguard. They need to be shuffled back into the herd where they won’t block every fresh idea.
It appears unlikely that any of the current political parties may be able to get past their accumulated ideological and political baggage to genuinely consider any truly fresh approaches. What is probably needed is an entirely new RE party, but one based on Reason and Evidence, not on fantasies of powering the world with sunbeams and summer breezes.