I am now in Portugal where I will soon to head to Madeira to celebrate the 20th year of Fremantle’ sister city relationship with Funchal on the weekend.
I have had a couple of very enjoyable weeks off and I did my best to have a rejuvenating break. Travelling around, though, I couldn’t help but reflect on what I have seen in the UK and Portugal and what it might means for Fremantle and Australia.
With a bit of distance from Australia, the debate that was perhaps most depressing was Australia’s insular debate over renewable energy.
The argument that solar and wind were responsible for the South Australia’s extraordinary blackout and that an ambitious renewable energy target could not be compatible for a robust and stable electricity grid seemed, at best, rather silly and uniformed from the side of the world.
While Australian politicians are having a frustratingly unproductive debate over a future renewable energy target; here in Portugal – a country not nearly as wealthy as Australia but also well-endowed with wind and sun – they have quietly got on with the necessary transition to a low carbon electricity supply.
Like the better known renewable energy leaders of Germany and Denmark, in Portugal windfarms are highly visible in the countryside and solar on widespread.
Portugal now gets over 50% of its electricity from renewable sources and more power from wind than it does coal. In fact they were producing so much renewable energy earlier this year they ran on clean energy alone for 4 days. It certainly puts some of the debates on renewable following South Australia into perspective.
And the innovation is continuing. I was invited to visit the local council of Peniche that showed us research they were doing in the area of wave energy that was currently providing the equivalent of power of 4000 homes in their area. It was a different model to the one being developed by Carnegie Energy in North Fremantle but one that also had an Australia connection.
Bombora Wave Power with the support of a grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), has shown through its trials off Portugal that the cost of electricity its wave farms will be comparable to the cost of electricity from off-shore wind farms and solar arrays in Europe by 2023.
Bombora have proposed a 60MW wave farm in Peniche, Portugal which will be 2.5km long, approximately 700m offshore, with 40 1.5MW wave converters deployed at a depth of 10 metres. Electricity generated is to be delivered into the grid via subsea cables.
What I love about travelling is that it often inspires that better alternatives are possible and reminds me that sometimes we way we do things in Australia isn’t always the best way. It also reminds me how lucky we have it in Australia and our nation’s extraordinary potential. But potential can’t be realised without the necessary leadership.