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Australia has one of the world’s highest per capita levels of greenhouse gas emissions, in part because of our heavy reliance on fossil fuels for electricity generation. Fossil fuels provide 93% of our electricity (83% coal, 10% gas) and renewables just 7% (mostly hydroelectricity).
A transition to low-carbon electricity sources is imperative in order for Australia to play its part in global efforts to minimise the adverse impacts of climate change.
The low-carbon options are clean energy (energy efficiency and renewables) or nuclear power. A strong body of evidence demonstrates that clean energy solutions will enable Australia to sharply reduce greenhouse emissions in the electricty sector without the need for nuclear power.
Energy efficiency measures are capable of generating large reductions in greenhouse emissions and can do so more cheaply and quickly than nuclear power. Therefore, investing in nuclear power instead of energy efficiency measures could exacerbate and accelerate climate change.
Renewable energy sources can also be deployed more rapidly than nuclear power, and credible scenarios have been developed which map out plans for the progressive replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy. The main qualification is that it may be necessary to rely on gas for some fraction of Australia’s electricity generation while some renewable energy sources are deployed on a commercial scale.