A new study claims that renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power could completely replace all fossil fuels for electricity generation purposes in Australia by 2040 given current trends and rates of deployment.
Research conducted by Andrew Blakers, director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems at the Australia National University, has concluded that if current trends in the country's energy sector continue over the long term, Australia will be host to a completely renewable electricity system by 2040.
Blakers' research notes that all new electricity generation capacity which has come online in recent years has been in the form of either wind power or solar photovoltaics, while energy demand has also declined continuously since 2008.
Using data for these existing trends to forecast the outcome of several more decades of development in the country's energy sector, Blakers concludes that by 2040 all of Australia fossil fuel power stations will have been phased out, with solar and wind power employed in their stead.
He says that, in order for Australia's power system to become fully renewable by 2040, wind power needs to be installed at rate of one gigawatt per year until 2040, while solar power will need to be installed at the same rate until 2020, after which point the installation pace must increase by 10 per cent a year.
Blakers' forecasts also see power usage stabilizing at 2013 levels and the maintenance of existing hydro power and other renewables at their current capacity.
While this scenario may appear wildly optimistic, Blakers says that even if the more conservative forecasts for technology costs released by the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics are applied his forecasts will still hold.
Blakers' projections are also largely consistent with the forecasts of other organizations in the field. BNEF stated last week that 46 per cent of Australia's electricity generation could be renewable by 2030, with the rate of retirement for fossil fuel plants rising in subsequent years.
As of 2010, 10 per cent of Australia's power was provided by renewable energy sources, with present trends implying a rate of 25 per cent by the end of this decade.