Australia has had it good for a long, long time. It’s been almost 30 years since our last recession and the Global Financial Crisis drifted over us like an intercontinental jet. Will the good times last?
No, they won’t. And although no-one can say where the next shock will come from, it’s always prudent to at least consider threats before they materialise.
Scientists love to ponder this sort of stuff using computer models into which they feed hundreds of variables and run thousands of scenarios. They’ll never be right, of course, but that’s not the point. It’s about finding out whether the chances of being worse off are greater than the chances of being better off.
The CSIRO and a long list of corporate and academic partners recently presented the Australian National Outlook 2019 report, which forecast the nation’s fitness in 2060 under two scenarios: “slow decline” and “outlook vision”.
“Slow decline” is just how it sounds, a drift into the future, with sprawling suburbs, expensive housing, deep social division and a 61% increase in total energy use by 2060 (on 2016 levels), with only a modest improvement in energy productivity.
“Outlook vision”, on the other hand, is where “Australia reaches its full potential”. Economic growth remains strong, workers are better skilled, our cities are dynamic and Australia has reached net zero emissions by 2050, driven by significant shifts in land use to carbon plantings.
How about the energy mix? For a start, households spend up to 64% less on electricity as a percentage of income thanks to a successful transition to a reliable, affordable, low-emissions energy economy that builds on Australia’s existing sources of comparative advantage.
If all goes well, then, the report says Australia will have managed a transition to renewable sources of electricity, “which will be driven by declining technology costs for generation, storage and grid support”.
Energy efficiency will also play a major role, with improvements in energy productivity minimising household and industrial energy use. Also, low-emissions energy exports, such as hydrogen and high-voltage direct current power, will be feeding into the economy.
That’s two scenarios. Which one will we be closer to by 2060? We’ll have to get back to you on that.