Keywords: renewable energy, fossil fuels, enhanced greenhouse effect, energy intensive economy, electricity generation, Australia, alternative energy, energy policy, Germany, employment growth, clean energy
Renewable energy and electricity generation: the Australian experience 1990–2004
The debate as to the degree to which renewable energy may emerge as a viable alternative for fossil fuel electricity generation is a topic of current economic and environmental interest. This paper examines the Australian experience of the promotion of renewable energy as an alternative energy source for the generation of electricity from the 1990s to the present. It traces both the motivation for the development of such policies and the funding mechanisms utilised to promote renewable energy. Some comparisons and contrasts (i.e., on the price of electricity, unemployment rates and employment opportunities) are made with Germany, a nation that has embraced renewable energy to a much greater degree than Australia. The paper concludes that it is not inevitable that a greater commitment to the utilisation of renewable energy must lead to higher electricity prices and job losses in Australia. Further, it is demonstrated that the potential for employment growth within the Australian renewable energy sector may have been overlooked.