Australia is about to become a massive battleground for alternative energy. We're getting the Tesla Powerwall first and now we have a brand new Chief Scientist who wants to do away with coal power altogether. Meet Dr Alan Finkel.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced Dr Finkel as Australia's new Chief Scientist this morning. He replaces Professor Ian Chubb.
After answering his first ever question on the dangers of eating bacon (he says it's fine as long as you eat it in moderation), Dr Finkel moved onto the future of Australia's energy.
Dr Finkel said that he wants Australia to move to zero emissions energy production. In other words? Get rid of coal.
"It's critically important that we reduce our emissions. The best way to do that is zero emission energy options," he said.
Instead of promoting technologies like nuclear power generation — which he says has "issues" — Dr Finkel threw his support behind Australia's solar future, while warning that the cost of battery storage had to come down.
"Solar is a great option if we can solve the problem of storage. If we can increase the volume and lower the price point of storage, solar becomes massively viable so does wind.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull soon stepped in and tempered the conversation with an assurance that Australia would still rely on and export coal for the foreseeable future. The PM added that even if Australia stopped exporting coal to the world tomorrow, global emissions wouldn't go down.
"If we stopped [exporting coal], the countries buying would just buy it from somewhere else. China — which by recollection is the largest coal producer in the world — is likely to become a net coal exporter itself. there is a lot of coal around. if Australia is to stop all of its coal exports, it wouldn't reduce carbon emissions," he said.
Prime Minister Turnbull also poured a bucket on the bold future of solar, saying that panels and battery storage technologies weren't for everyone.
"Solar panels and batteries in an Australian household context are probably not in most cases competitive with grid delivery power. However, if you are in a remote community or if you are in a community in a developing country with no grid...solar panels could be cost effective. It's horses for courses, we need to take the ideology out of this and approach it in a cool-headed and rational way," Turnbull cautioned.
When asked if he was prepared to butt heads with the Government and the Prime Minister on the future of Australia's energy needs, Dr Finkel diplomatically answered that he was here only to act as an advisor.
"My role is to give evidence-based advice and I'm positive to get a receptive audience," he added.