The first time Sandy and I drove across Kooragang Island we were confronted by a large swamp devoid of any vegetation other than string of dead trees poking up out of the water. We turned to each other and simultaneously exclaimed “Mordor!”. Kooragang Island is home to Newcastle’s coal loader and such destruction had been unleashed that it truly resembled a barren wasteland from the Lord of the Rings.
In the years since that first trip the area has been rejuvenated. It is now filled with vegetation and presumably the animal and birdlife that follows. A little further up the road is an energy producing windmill. The rejuvenation of Kooragang and that windmill are signs to me that we are making some progress on our environmental stewardship. Naive really, for the backdrop is one of the largest coal export ports in the world!
It was table 14 in the 2014 United Nations human development report that threw me. Table 14 maps out the proportion of each nation’s power supply that comes from fossil fuels and the proportion from renewables. Looking at the chart below isn’t pretty reading.
The chart shows the percentage of a nation’s energy supply that comes from renewable sources. The balance comes from carbon based sources. Of the top thirty developed nations Australia is fifth last, sourcing just 4.6% of our energy supply from renewables and 95.4% via fossil fuels.
The figures in the chart are from 2012. The renewable energy target established under the previous government mandates that we must source 20% of our electricity from renewables by the year 2020. Thank goodness this target survived the attempt by the current government to scrap it. Indeed it seems very modest when you think that if we hit 20% tomorrow we would still only be middle of the pack.