Five Renewable Energy Myths Busted by Experts
Written by Ainsley Kelso, Solar Citizens intern.
It's no secret that vested interests and the big end of town like to throw renewables under the bus by spreading misinformation. The following five myths were debunked and explained by a panel of four energy experts at the NSW: Support Affordable Solar for All event in Penrith.
Myth #1- Renewable Energy is Impossible
Dr. Brad Smith, senior energy and climate campaigner with the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, discussed crushing the myth that 100% renewable energy is an impossible goal to achieve. It’s time to bust the myth that we cannot have a bridge to clean energy anytime soon or even at all. Dr. Smith said, “As an electrical engineer, there are so many challenges out there that are really exciting and [there] are opportunities for Australia to lead the world. Absolutely, it is doable.”
Myth #2- Renewables are Only for the Rich
Dr. Bruce Mountain, an energy based economist and director of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre, busted this myth by citing research found in the latest Solar Citizens commissioned report, Australia’s Rooftop Real Estate Report - Part Two. “One of the fascinating things that we found in the study, that I didn’t altogether expect to find, was that the relative proportion of households taking solar was highest amongst the poorest households and lowest amongst the richest.” Solar energy just makes economic sense for low to middle income households – and it appears that, where possible, they’re making the most of it. Everyday Australians are slashing their bills by utilising solar energy.
Myth #3- Using Solar Energy Pushes Everyone Else’s Bills Up
Solar Citizens’ Solar Savings report shows that this is not the case. Marija Petkovic, founder and managing director of Energy Synapse, smashed the misconception that bills were increasing in cost due to people’s use of rooftop PV. “It does reduce prices for everyone and everyone in the market does benefit from others who are storing solar,” said Petkovic. The report showed that over the course of one year rooftop solar helped to keep down the price of wholesale electricity by as much as $44/MWh in NSW. Without rooftop solar, NSW households could have paid $2.2-3.3 billion more in wholesale electricity costs. A combination of factors has driven up the price of electricity but solar is not one of them.
Myth #4- Renewables aren’t Reliable, We Need a Form of Better 'Baseload' Power
According to Dr. Anna Bruce, senior lecturer in the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of New South Wales, “Studies show how we can meet 100% of our [energy] demand reliably at the same mean reliability we currently have using renewable energy.” We can indeed count on renewables to be reliable without having to make significant sacrifices. The concept of ‘baseload’ power was developed so coal plants would not lose money at night when they needed to meet a minimum and could not just shut off the plant. As renewables grow in popularity, we no longer need to be wedded to the concept of 'baseload' power, but instead can move into a future where dispatchable generation and demand management work together to create a smart, reliable grid.
Myth #5- Renewables Need a Helping Hand Because They’re Uneconomical
New South Wales has amazing resources with the potential to create enormous amounts of solar energy. However, as Dr. Brad Smith pointed out, how can we expect someone to invest in a solar or wind farm in NSW if they don’t know what the policies will look like in five years when they are trying to get a return on their investment? “That is the thing that I really think has put the brakes on in NSW. Other states have avoided this by putting in Renewable Energy Targets. Hopefully with the [NSW] election people will put some promises there so that people can go out and do the things that need to be done with certainty,” said Dr. Smith.
Renewable energy just makes sense. Don’t get caught up in the myths.
Check out our video for more from the panel.