Intelligence Squared Debates: Coal-fired Power will Soon be Obsolete
Climate change is intensifying, but along with the repeal of the carbon tax, the price of coal has dropped – making it more appealing as an energy source. What lies ahead … for Australia and the world?
The Australian economy is largely propped up by coal, but is the end in sight? Is China, for instance, as reliant on Australian coal as we’re led to believe? And while many in the industry accept the science around climate change, what are the viable alternatives of energy supply to developing countries – is coal the only affordable option for those striving to escape poverty and destitution?
Renewable energy has not yet been developed at a rate (and for a price) that makes it a viable large-scale substitute for coal. Which begs the question: is our whole model flawed? The future of energy distribution could be local rather than centralised, with rooftops, co-generation plants and other small-scale technologies playing a vital role – avoiding the need for large systems of infrastructure for distribution.
Looking beyond the nuts and bolts of technology, what is the impact on communities of moving away from coal? Are we indifferent to the eclipse of the long history of coal mining? And what will happen to the communities that were once defined by it?
This debate was moderated by Wheeler Centre director Michael Williams.
Speaking for the proposition
· Bob Brown, former leader of the Australian Greens
· Professor Mike Sandiford, director Melbourne Energy Institute
· Lane Crockett, Executive General Manager, Pacific Hydro
Speaking against the proposition
· Dr Richard Aldous, CEO CO2CRC
· Dr Nikki Williams, former head of the Australian Coal Association
· Sinclair Davidson, professor of institutional economics at the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing RMIT, and senior fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs
Bob Brown resigned as leader of the Greens in 2012 and from the Australian Senate in June 2012. Brown led the Australian Greens from the party's foundation in 1992 until April 2012.
Mike Sandiford is professor of geology and director of the Melbourne Energy Institute at the University of Melbourne. As director of the Energy Institute, he oversees the university energy research portfolio, and has been responsible for developing its focus on the opportunities and challenges of integration of low emission technologies in large-scale, sustainable energy systems.
Dr Nikki Williams is a non-executive director of both Tellus Holdings and Neuroscience Research Australia and chairman of the NeuRA Foundation. She is an ambassador of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation and patron of Women in Mining (NSW).
Michael Williams is the Director of the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas in Melbourne. He has worked at the Wheeler Centre since inception in 2009, when he was hired as the Head of Programming before being appointed as Director in September 2011.
He has hosted Blueprint for Living (2015–2016), then Talkfest (2017–2019), on ABC RN. He remains a regular guest on ABC Radio and TV. Michael has also worked as a Breakfast presenter for Melbourne’s 3RRR, as a member of the Australia Council’s Literature Board, in publishing and has written extensively for the Guardian, the Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Australian and elsewhere.
Dr Richard Aldous is chief executive of the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC). With an extensive national and international career in resource development, technology research and executive management in both industry and government, Dr Aldous has worked with a number of international resource companies, including BHP, Newcrest, Iluka and WMC.
Lane Crockett is the Executive General Manager, Australia for Pacific Hydro - a leading diversified renewable energy company which operates in Australia, Chile and Brazil. Lane is responsible for leading the Australian business which is a vertically integrated clean energy utility with a portfolio of more than 300 megawatts of operating wind and hydro power facilities.
The Australian business also has a mature portfolio of wind and geothermal projects under development. Lane is a member of the board of the Energy Supply Association of Australia, the national body representing the stationary energy industry.
Sinclair Davidson is a professor in the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University and a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.