Our economy is transitioning... even Scott Morrison is saying so. But it is not transitioning in a way that he and the Turnbull government have foreseen, or even supported.
It is transitioning toward the new economy, powered by renewable energy.
It is difficult to say what was the tipping point for dirty power sources like coal (which is undoubtedly in structural decline).
Solar panels have become both more efficient and cheaper to produce. This in large part due to the large scale production that has been occurring in China. But it seems future efficiency gains are around the corner with Australian companies like Dyesol making huge leaps forward with its Perovskite product coming in at just over 21% efficiency late last year, and French company Sunpower's product recently coming in at 22.8% efficiency.
Solar-thermal is also reportedly coming to our shores with US company SolarReserve reportedly planning a 110MW facility near Port Augusta which can supply power over a 24 hr period... essentially baseload power which completely negates the final argument as to why we 'need coal'.
Battery storage is fast becoming the technology that will smooth out the lumpiness of generation from wind and solar. The big name in this space has been Elon Musk and Tesla, with batteries already being sold and installed in Australia and with reportedly many more lining up.
One of the great Australian energy storage stories comes from AllGrid energy - an indigenous Australian owned company which is using older technology (lead acid batteries) to provide cheaper battery storage to remote communities where power from diesel generators is expensive, dirty and can be unreliable. The answer for remote communities will be solar and battery, and an Indigenous corporation will be doing its bit to close the gap for people in those areas.
Wind is moving ahead in leaps and bounds. In addition to the high penetration in places like South Australia, the technology is changing and improving rapidly - with larger blades (meaning more capacity to generate power at low wind speeds), as well as blades that fold in high winds (for greater safety in stormy and cyclonic conditions).
Proactive governments like the ACT are fast-tracking battery capacity building, and South Australia has set a path towards 100% renewables. Sadly there is no leadership Federally despite us having the World's Best Minister in this space.
Luckily ARENA is an independent body and is doing the investment heavy lifting in this area.
Interesting new technology projects include - Solar air turbine systems (a project between CSIRO and Mitsubishi), Wave energy projects (in WA and Victoria), and the Kidston Pumped storage project near Ingham, and more.
It's hard not to agree with Malcolm Turnbull - these are exciting times - but not for major sponsors of the Liberal party.
by Mark Enders
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.