EcoGeneration talks to four Australian energy leaders who attended COP21 about the outcome, what it means for Australian businesses and what needs to change in the national energy mix.


“The end of coal-fired power generation”


Chief Executive of Infigen Energy, Miles George, says the Paris conference outcome starts a long overdue globally coordinated process to limit carbon emissions.


However, he says the “elephant in the room” is Australia’s power generation sector.


For all the talk of innovation, Australia still relies on 1950s technology to deliver about three quarters of its power requirements. That proportion of our power generation fleet is already beyond its design life, and Australia remains host to the world’s dirtiest, heavy emitting power stations.”


Absence of naysayers


Tony Cooper, Chief Executive of Energetics, says the strong global climate agreement shocked many commentators


A surprise was the absence of climate deniers’ “˜spoiler’ tactics that drew headlines at previous COP events. Maybe now we can say that climate science has achieved “˜peak acceptance’,” Mr Cooper says.

Mr Cooper also notes that the High Ambition Coalition – comprising the US, all EU states, 79 African countries and, at the 11th hour, Australia was not undermined by China, India and Saudi Arabia, despite observers’ initial fears.

“The deal struck a long-term goal for the world’s nations to achieve net zero emissions before the end of the century. The Coalition also organised for a “˜global’ stocktake in 2023 and every five years thereafter, providing a signal to investors and businesses to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Tim Nelson, Head of Economic Policy & Sustainability at AGL Energy, echoes Mr Cooper’s thoughts.

“My most immediate observation in relation to COP 21 is the contrast between the outcome in Paris with that of Copenhagen in 2009.

“Personally, I think the most important breakthrough is the ramping mechanism, which will result in countries reviewing and resubmitting their reduction targets each five years.”

Mr Nelson says Australian companies will need to prepare for increased calls for quality carbon-related disclosure

“Such disclosure is likely to be focused on emissions (direct, supply chain, per unit of output), competitor analysis and governance structure.”


Untapped potential of bioenergy


Vice President of the World Bioenergy Association, Andrew Lang, says it was a “surprise and a real concern” that so many groups and policymakers at COP21 were ignorant of the potential scope of biomass-to-energy.

“That renewable electricity dominates the thinking and intermittent sources of wind and solar are so much at the forefront appears out of step with the realities,” Mr Lang says.

“Bioenergy is the world’s largest renewable energy source, and is not only able to cost effectively reduce greenhouse gases for industries, farms and municipalities at a regional and national level, but can also be a part of massive reforestation as well as improved water management and agriculture,” he adds.