Ecological transformation and the circular economy switch would solve the NSW energy debate

Veolia Australia and New Zealand

By Richard Kirkman, CEO and managing director, Veolia Australia & New Zealand
Thursday, 11 August, 2022

Ecological transformation and the circular economy switch would solve the NSW energy debate

Unlike most major challenges faced by modern society, I believe there is a silver bullet for the NSW energy crisis that maintains consumer affordability and protects the environment.

Providing more than 10% of Australia’s energy production from new shovel-ready bio-renewables would create the additional network capacity needed to avoid brownouts and blackouts, prevent price disturbances caused by energy shortages, and provide the energy volume needed for more electric vehicles.

A combination of recycling and bioenergy technologies would also increase the grid mix of renewables and put more people in sustainable jobs.

Producing energy from new renewable sources like energy recovery facilities, anaerobic digestion, sewage sludge and biomass is the answer.

The real butter in the parsnips here is that we don’t need to wait to implement them because these low-carbon solutions already exist and are proven to be safe. All we need to do is execute at pace and scale, from a range of available sources.

What’s more, as energy is generated from renewable sources such as sewage sludge, food waste, biomass residues and non-recyclable waste, it’s a better outcome for the environment on all fronts.

Veolia is obsessed with the dynamic we call ecological transformation, a way to adapt to climate change pressures whilst maintaining quality of life, the natural environment and wealth of citizens. A concrete example is food waste into renewable energy. If we all reduce, separate and collect food waste it becomes cost neutral and highly environmentally beneficial.

The move wouldn’t just be more sustainable. Alongside traditional renewable technologies, such as solar, wind and hydropower, it can harness a triple bottom line effect, solving climate change, the energy resilience crisis and price in one big bang.

Renewables are cost effective, especially as Australia’s unique climate of sun, wind, forestry and access to bodies of excess water make the perfect recipe for successful adoption. This is the future resource rush for Australia, harnessing natural resources whilst preserving them at the same time.

There is no reason why Australia can’t be the world leader in a new portfolio of renewable energy production, relying on non-recyclable wastes, waste food, sewage and renewable biogas.

The net zero roadmap

Switching to 10% novel renewables is no mean feat, but there are some quick wins that Australia could implement to reach the goal more quickly:

  • Fast-tracking plans to deliver food and garden organics recycling for all households.
  • Producing energy from sewage sludge, an everlasting supply of energy.
  • Generating energy from non-recyclable wastes, replacing fossil fuels and producing green energy for electric vehicles.
  • Recycling, renewing and replenishing natural resources, which will reduce consumption of energy.
  • Energy efficiency using AI and machine learning to optimise use in buildings.
  • Installing passive and active CO2 reduction in new buildings and materials. Veolia is considering how to install synthetic trees on all its sites to suck in CO2 and clean the air.

The roadmap can be crystallised as moving to a circular economy in water, waste and energy, in line with government policy.

Now is the time for business and industry to take advantage of this opportunity.

Making this shift would enable people to continue to live as they do, but more sustainably. Australia can continue mining, manufacturing and managing its economy for the betterment and wealth of citizens, as well as the natural environment. This would allow us and our children to enjoy the Australian lifestyle we have today for generations to come.

Ecological transformation of energy would drive us closer to the government’s 43% emission reduction targets by 2030.

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