By 2030, more than three quarters of our electricity will come from solar panels and wind turbines. Most of our remaining fossil fuel power stations will close during the 2020s, eliminating one third of our greenhouse gas emissions.
With the right policies, sales of electric vehicles could eclipse sales of conventional vehicles by 2030. These vehicles use clean renewable electricity instead of fuel and eliminate both greenhouse gases and urban smog.
Sales of gas-burning heaters can be quickly eliminated by mandating that electric heaters replace retiring gas heaters.
Decarbonising our electricity system using solar and wind, and using this clean electricity to "electrify everything", gets rid of about 80 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions.
Remarkably, Australia is the global solar pathfinder. Australia has the most solar panels per person and is generating TWICE as much solar electricity per person compared with the other leading countries (Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Chile).
Australia is convincingly demonstrating that reaching high levels of renewable energy is cheaper than persisting with fossil fuels. Mass use of solar and wind sharply reduces greenhouse emissions. And the variability of solar and wind is manageable at modest cost though storage (pumped hydro and batteries) and new transmission.
The area of solar panel required to provide all the energy needed to operate a fully decarbonised Australian economy is about 60 square metres per person, plus some wind energy. This is similar to the per capita area of rooftop in Australia. Solar panels can be mounted on rooftops or on the ground.
Solar panels absorb sunlight and convert about 20 per cent of the light into electricity. The rest of the sunlight becomes heat. Materials such as green grass, bare soil and ponds reflect about 20 per cent of incident sunlight back into space. The rest of the sunlight becomes heat.
Reflection of 20 per cent of sunlight back into space has a similar effect to removing 20 per cent of the sunlight as electricity. Thus, solar panels produce a similar amount of local heating to common materials and surfaces. Dark surfaces such as dark roof tiles or asphalt produce more local heating while lighter surfaces such as metal roofs or sand produce less local heating.
The local heating produced by a solar farm is immeasurably small beyond the outer fence. Indeed, solar panels used in animal pasture provides welcome shade to the animals.
Importantly, solar panels in conjunction with wind turbines to get rid of fossil fuels can readily remove 80 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions: about 15 tonnes per person per year. This helps very greatly in preserving a pleasant planet for our children.
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