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An Indian view of climate change, and where it led me

By Don Aitkin - posted Monday, 12 August 2019

Okay, what about Germany, the great leader in alternative electricity policy? Coal provides 45 per cent, renewables about 32 per cent, with nuclear power stations still providing power, despite the decision to close all plants. Germany has its own coal reserves, but buys in power from elsewhere in Europe when it needs to. Not a fair comparison.

All right, let's go to Canada, which really is unusual. Hydro provides 59 per cent of electricity, then nuclear (15 per cent), fossil fuels 19 per cent, with coal only 9 per cent, and non-hydro renewables at 7 per cent. Alberta and Saskatchewan have oil and gas, and use them in their power production. But the other provinces do not. The Canadian situation is strikingly different not only to Australia, but to the other nations I have listed here. But then Canada has abundant water, and we don't, at all. But we do have abundant coal.

A final journey takes us to Botswana, arguably the least corrupt state in sub-Saharan Africa. There is one supplier, the Botswana Power Corporation, which produces electricity from coal, at about half the desired consumption. It can get more power from South Africa, which has its own problems with under-capacity, so Botswana gets blackouts, too. It has its own coal reserves too, but getting them out is not easy for a poor country.


So there you are. On the face of it, you use what you can when you can afford to, in terms of the production of electricity. That is, until you have to deal with renewables. What things will be like in 2037, when I will have passed on or awaiting a royal congratulation, I have no idea. But coal will still be important in the mix, I think.

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About the Author

Don Aitkin has been an academic and vice-chancellor. His latest book, Moving On, was published in 2016.

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