The energy debate we need to have

It’s been a year since Atlassian founder Mike Cannon-Brookes struck his high-profile bet with Elon Musk. On 30 November 2018, the Tesla battery installed in South Australia started pumping out power a day ahead of schedule.

The battery saga highlighted the great political and generational energy divide across Australia, as some of the world’s biggest billionaires stepped in to do what federal politicians would normally resolve. The energy divide has now blown into a full scale national debate - who on earth will lead us forward from here?

When the SA government copped it from all directions for state wide blackouts in the sweltering summer of 2016, Mike Cannon-Brookes stepped forward as a self-appointed hero of renewable energy. And he couldn’t resist another chance to weigh into the debate when our coal cheerleader PM launched his own offensive on clean energy last month.

Giving coal some Aussie appeal

The energy leadership power tussle started back in 2016, when ScoMo declared the Tesla Big Battery about as useful to energy customers as the Big Banana. He was proven wrong on his very first day as PM. Two major transmission lines failed on Saturday 25 August 2018, causing power outages in NSW and Victoria, and a potential domino effect across the whole national grid. Luckily SA customers had the Big Battery to fall back on this time around.

Not one to back down, in November, ScoMo broadcast his ‘Fair Dinkum’ power catchphrase, reminding the nation that clean energy just wouldn’t be the Aussie way, under his leadership at least.

Fortunately, not all the nation’s energy leaders reside in parliament. Shortly after ScoMo’s anti-renewable spray, Mike Cannon-Brookes was back, countering with his own Fair Dinkum power initiative to “move the conversation to a pro-renewable stance”.

"Australia could be a renewable energy super power,” the 38-year-old billionaire was quoted as saying. "We could be exporting massive amounts of power, we could have huge numbers of jobs here in this space.”

On the right track with solar

MCB definitely makes an important point here. Australia has shown the world our clean energy chops with our amazing uptake of solar power.

Being the sunshine state, it’s no surprise Queensland is leading the trend. Solar panels installed in almost a third of homes deliver more power to the state than any other source. And with 18 new solar farms on the cards for Queensland, the state will be harvesting 17% of their power from the sun. Meanwhile down in NSW, 10 new solar farms are expected to reduce carbon emissions by 2.5 tonnes.

Time to catch-up with carbon targets

With global carbon emissions hitting an all-time high of 32.5 gigatonnes in 2017, Paris Climate Agreement targets are in jeopardy. Australian delegates at COP24 will find it hard to look other leaders in the eye as we’re about as guilty as any other nation of not doing enough on carbon emissions.

Our state-driven solar and renewable projects are definitely an important step away from a carbon-fuelled future. But if we’re to stand up to climate change and the bigger energy challenge in a meaningful way, energy policy reform needs to happen, and fast. We need billionaries and pollies on the same side of the table, not the opposite.

Either way, we’ve got the popcorn out for the next installment of the Fair Dinkum reality show. Hopefully the power stays on long enough for us to watch it.

Hey there, eco-warrior. Want to learn more about how you can help save the planet with your super? Check out our Green Fund.

This article is general in nature, and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider if the information is appropriate and whether you need to speak to an accredited professional.

Katie Cox

Katie is an entrepreneur and eco-enthusiast with a background in fintech. During the day she keeps Zuper's product delivery running smoothly. In her spare time she's launching a micro-algae venture in the sustainable agriculture space.

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