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Emmissions trading requires investment

Establishment of an emissions trading scheme without appropriate investment in new technologies will threaten Australia’s economic health, according to the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE).

The Academy says advanced technology, accompanied by behavioural change, can provide the major solutions needed to achieve a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions but, without it, emissions targets and trading will drive investment away.

In its response to the Garnaut Climate Change Review Interim Report, ATSE accepts that the climate is changing, and recognises that strategies are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt intelligently to the effects of the change.

Given that Government policy is to achieve a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and that an emissions trading scheme will be introduced, measures must be adopted to strongly encourage investment in new and improved technology that will reduce carbon dioxide releases to atmosphere and improve energy efficiency, ATSE says.

Without such investment, stringent targets will be impossible to meet efficiently with currently available technologies, and this will result in a reduction in the level of economic activity in Australia, ATSE says. Imposing targets without providing assistance to develop the enabling technologies to achieve them could have the unintended consequences of closing down energy intensive industries in Australia and seeing investment migrate to more lenient regimes.

ATSE’s set out preliminary views on relevant technology domains in its response, which include:

Energy conservation — There is scope for dramatically enhanced energy conservation in industry, commerce and the domestic sector.

Clean coal technologies — More rapid development of ‘clean coal’ technologies is needed, including improved combustion systems, but especially carbon capture and sequestration. Should these technologies prove successful they will inevitably add significantly to electricity price (even without carbon trading).

Solar energy — Significantly improved less-costly solar panels for integrated roofing systems would enable homes to become distributed micro power stations (at say 2-3kW each).

Nuclear energy — Removal of barriers to nuclear energy in Australia would require enhanced public information, as well as education and training of engineers, technologists and managers.

Other energy sources — There are significant opportunities for the exploitation and commercialisation of geothermal power generation in Australia, but significant investment is needed.

Electric vehicles — Transport emissions can be lowered by accelerating the take-up of electric vehicles, moving quickly to plug in (and feed out) electric vehicles with advanced batteries and superior performance.

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