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    Top Oz Scientist Warns of Limits to Renewables


Natural gas will continue to play a crucial role in kicking coal out of the domestic energy mix, just as it has in the UK, he says.

by: William Powell

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Top Oz Scientist Warns of Limits to Renewables

Renewable energy must play a greater role if Australia and the world are to cut emissions, Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel told the National Press Club February 12, but it will be "decades before renewables alone can power our modern societies."

In the interim, he said, gas will be the "energy companion" that can react rapidly to changes in solar and wind output. It is relatively low in emissions and only operates when needed.

He drew favourable comparisons with jurisdictions such as the UK, where gas has helped to cut emissions from power generation while also enabling a shift to renewable energy.

Finkel also highlighted the potential role hydrogen will play as a transport fuel, a chemical feedstock and a means to export energy between continents. The natural gas industry is well-placed to assist in the development of a large-scale commercial hydrogen industry, both in using gas to produce hydrogen and using gas infrastructure to process and transport hydrogen, he said.

The CEO of upstream industry group Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (Appea), Andrew McConville, said Finkel’s emphasis on the positive role of gas reflects the industry’s own position that the fuel must be part of any orderly energy transition. “Natural gas is enabling the shift to renewables and will continue to do so for decades come. As the global appetite for energy continues to grow, the process of substituting gas for more emissions-intensive fuels allows importing countries to satisfy growing demand and reduce emissions," he said. “Given our abundant natural gas resources this can be a critical and valuable Australian solution to a global challenge.”