How good is it to be a proactive part of a revolution? I love it.
I am a passionate advocate for 100% renewable energy as soon as possible and certainly no later than 2040 globally.
The fossil fuel age is over and it is only a matter of time before it is buried under the weight of the ingenuity, innovation and economics of renewable energy. It is only a matter of time before the concentrated, hidden political power of the vested interests of the fossil fuel corporations gives way to the distributed, transparent people power of renewable energy. How long that takes depends on us. Already the movement to divest from fossil fuel investments and to see them as stranded assets has become global phenomenon.
But, while energy transformation is inevitable, it can be delayed and frustrated by governments and industry. We have seen that through the snail’s pace of global negotiation and ongoing billions of dollars spent on fossil fuel subsidies. We not only need research, technological breakthroughs, and commercialisation, we need new political policies and regulatory frameworks that facilitate not hinder the vision for the future that is encompassed in the Paris Agreement. The world should be fossil fuel free by 2040.
An energy revolution
Every day there is some new development to celebrate as the sun, wind, tides, flowing rivers and the Earth itself are harnessed to give us the energy we need to live healthy, happy, fulfilling lives. The energy revolution goes to every aspect of our lives - from the way we light our homes and workplaces, grow and cook our food, power everything from lights, to computers, phones, cars, buses, trains and aeroplanes to the largest machines. It goes to how we design our cities and our homes, buildings and transport systems to go green, reduce our energy demand and make us healthier at the same time.
We know how to harness that energy but our challenge remains to bring down the cost, scale up the roll-out to every place on the planet and speed up the transition not only to keep global warming to less than 2 degrees but to drive it down to the 1.5 degrees that will give us the possibility of a safe climate.
Renewable energy and poverty eradication are two sides of the same coin. We live in an unequal world in which in some countries, women carry water for many kilometres, child labour is cheaper than energy, children have no light for homework, streets are dark and often violent places, people die from air pollution inside and outside their homes. In other rich countries the poorest people live furthest from the centre of the city, have no access to public transport, live in the least energy efficient housing, cannot afford to install renewable energy and drive the least fuel efficient cars condemning them to a cycle of poverty.
What is happening with distributed renewable energy, renewables at utility scale and the roll out of battery storage is nothing short of revolutionary. In my lifetime people have gone from passive, powerless consumers of electricity to being able to become proactive, powerful generators of electricity. To help them to do it is the task at hand.
The key is to recognise imagination as the resource of the century and to make sure that what is proposed is appropriate technology and scale and is implemented collaboratively after consultation with local communities. The great news is that in many parts of the world we can leap frog the worst excesses of polluting, centralised, fossil fuel generation and go straight to renewable energy, making a huge contribution to social justice at the same time. In those countries where centralised systems have been built we need to transform them so that we can maximise the generation and uptake of renewable energy and incorporation of battery storage.
That’s why I am involved. I want to give people real power: political and renewable and make sure that at both the global organisational level and on the ground, the revolution achieves its promise.
It’s why in the Australian Parliament I drove the development and passage of the Clean Energy Package including the implementation of a carbon price. I was also instrumental in establishing the Climate Change Authority, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Carbon Farming Initiative.
I was a fierce defender of the Renewable Energy Target and energy efficiency policies and successfully proposed and participated in many Senate Inquiries for example on the impacts of global warming on agriculture, invasive species and biosecurity, water security, and disaster preparedness. I successfully proposed and drove two Senate Inquiries into the operation of the National Electricity Market and another on the scale of corporate tax avoidance.
I am currently a Patron of the Australian Smart Energy Council, an Ambassador for the 100% Renewable Energy Campaign of the World Future Council, Ambassador for the Global Greens, Board Member of The Bob Brown Foundation, Advisory Board member of the Climate Accountability Institute, Solar Heads of State, The Borneo Project and Member of the Energy Watch Group.