It is a response that moves us away from fossil fuel powered, centralized grids - to more flexible and modular systems that can ‘work’ together to make up a grid. The type of renewable energy will depend on what is available in the region or country. A grid might be made up of rooftop solar, large offshore or onshore wind farms, large scale batteries, geothermal energy, large solar farms, green hydrogen energy, home batteries or battery to grid vehicles, pumped hydro and hydro, plus smaller community energy projects, micro-grids, and potentially small-scale nuclear reactors further into the future.
Why do we need this response?
Quite simply, global warming will not be stopped and reversed without ending the use of fossil fuels. The combustion of coal, gas, and oil creates 82% of carbon dioxide emissions. These emissions form a blanket around our planet, trapping heat and increasing temperatures.
Fossil fuels have allowed us to build and create wonderous things, but they are also toxic to air, lakes, oceans, soil, plants, people, and animals. They create smog, distribute particulate matter into the air, and cause lung and respiratory disease.
The future of our civilization depends on whether or not we can end our reliance on fossil fuels. Perhaps our greatest barrier though to building renewable energy grids, is the fossil fuel industry itself. They spend around one billion dollars every year on propaganda to confuse the public about climate change and to espouse the benefits of fossil fuels.
How are others approaching this?
There are many ways that people around the world are attempting to build a scalable, renewable energy infrastructure. Below is a small sample. If you have any further examples that you think should be on this list, please get in touch.
Solar and wind cable projects
Two large scale and potentially revolutionary renewable energy projects are currently in planning. The Sun Cable project would see solar energy produced in northern Australia sent to Singalore via an undersea cable.
While the XLINK project would carry wind and solar energy produced in Morocco to the UK, also via an undersea cable. If successful, more cables could be laid from Australia to south East Asia and from Morocco to other parts of Africa or western Europe.
These cables would provide clean energy from high wind and solar locations to countries that may not have the land available or the optimal weather conditions.
There is a lot of talk about hydrogen as a clean energy source. The best hydrogen for our planet’s health is green hydrogen as it is produced through a process called electrolysis - using renewable energy. Blue or grey hydrogen is produced using natural gas, which is a fossil fuel we have to phase out, and brown or black hydrogen is produced using coal, another fossil fuel.
In the future, green hydrogen could power blast furnaces to make ‘green steel’, be used as fuel cells for cars, trucks or aeroplanes, be turned into ammonia and used for energy, or even used as a substitute for gas in our homes.
Making your home energy efficient
An remarkable 28% of global emissions come from the activities inside our buildings (the number jumps to 40% when construction is included). There are now clear actions we can take that will help the planet and significantly lower our bills.
Electric heat pumps produce three times more energy than they use and are much cheaper to run than gas. 4 star reverse cycle air conditioners can be 45% cheaper to run than a gas heater.
Solar panels now produce much larger savings than conventional energy and increased glazing on windows or sealing cracks where appropriate can lead to further savings. Government assisted home efficiency schemes are going to be essential for accelerating the process.
Energy solutions for regional neighbours
If we are going to meaningfully address climate change then the wealthier nations are going to have to help the developing nations far more than they currently do. This help could come in the form of exporting renewable energy technology and infrastructure, or by sending excess energy generated from abundant renewable resources or by providing funding under the banner of ‘climate justice’ - because most of the world’s developing nations are feeling the full impacts of climate change despite contributing very little to global emissions.
Electric Vehicles grid storage
‘Vehicle to Grid’ as it is known or V2G is another solution that is gaining serious traction. The idea is simple - electric vehicles are large batteries on wheels. Some car batteries are up to 3-4 times larger than the standard battery seen on the side of a house. If that vehicle is plugged into a home via a special ‘bi-directional charger’, then the energy from the car’s battery can be used by the grid in periods of demand and the owner will be paid accordingly.
It is estimated that by 2025, all new EVs will be V2G compatible.
According to Saul Griffith, author of Electrify, if we electrify the whole economy, we will need less than half of the primary energy we currently use. This is because coal and gas-fired generation plants convert heat to energy, resulting in overall energy loss of 68 per cent for coal plants and 42 to 50 percent for many gas turbines. Solar and wind convert energy more directly. There is no combustion. There are even greater energy savings in vehicles. 80 percent of a car’s energy heats the air with just 20 percent of energy making it to the wheels.
In electric cars, 90 percent of energy goes to the wheels. While electrifying everything does reduce overall energy use, it requires doubling the amount of energy needed. Doing this presents an opportunity to create millions of jobs, bring down costs, clear our skies, quieten our city streets, and make our homes and offices smarter and more efficient.
Some of these solutions are featured in our short film - Regenerate Australia. Find out where you can see the film.
Regenerative actions you can implement
We believe every one of us has a role to play in Regeneration. If you are interested in helping, here are some actions you can implement your life.