Energy sources

Renewable energy

Solar

The sun’s energy is converted directly into electricity by solar cells (also known as solar photovoltaic PV).

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Wind

Wind turns the blades of a wind turbine to generate electricity.

Hydro

Flowing water downhill turns water turbines to generate electricity.

Solar Thermal

The sun's rays are reflected and concentrated in order to boil water to make steam. This steam drives a turbine, creating electricity. Alternatively, the sun's rays can be used to heat molten salt, also creating steam to power a turbine. Some solar thermal plants incorporate energy storage.

Bioenergy, biomass

Energy from burning organic matter (recently living plant or animal material), such as sugarcane waste, landfill gas and algae produces heat, which is then used to boil water or other fluids to drive turbines to generate electricity.

Marine

The ocean’s waves, tides or thermal energy is converted into electricity using a range of technologies.

Geothermal

The earth’s natural heat is used to boil water or other fluids and drive turbines to generate electricity.

Energy Storage

Technologies such as battery storage and pumped hydro are used to store electricity (from renewable or conventional fossil fuelled or nuclear power stations) at times of low demand, which can then be supplied later, when demand is high, or output is lower.  

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Fossil fuels

Coal

Coal fired power stations burn coal to create heat, which is then used to boil water. This produces steam that drives a turbine and a generator, creating electricity.

Australia’s heavy reliance on ageing, inefficient coal-fired power stations means our power supply is the most polluting per unit of electricity in the OECD. Coal power generation is highly polluting, is relatively inflexible, and emits toxic and carcinogenic substances into our air, water and land.

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Gas

Gas is a polluting and expensive form of generating electricity. Even current levels of reliance on gas power are inconsistent with limiting global temperature below 2°C (McConnell 2017). Acting on climate change means moving away from gas as well as coal for power generation.

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Other energy sources

Nuclear

Nuclear power plants are highly controversial, are not able to be built under existing law in any Australian state and territory, are a more expensive source of power than renewables, and present significant challenges in terms of the storage and transport of nuclear waste, and use of water.

Nuclear plants also present significant community, health, environmental, and cost risks associated with potential impacts from extreme weather events and natural disasters, such as occurred in Fukushima, Japan in 2011, and leave a long term prohibitively expense legacy of site remediation, fuel reprocessing and radioactive waste storage.

Australia is one of the sunniest and windiest countries in the world, with enough renewable energy resources to power our country 500 times over. When compared with clean, reliable and affordable renewable energy and storage technology in Australia, nuclear power makes no sense.