The transition from coal-based to renewable energy is one of the key challenges of the 21st century. Conversion of the energy supply system must, however, be designed to minimise the impact on the environment and landscape and take account of human needs. The strong incentive mechanisms over recent years have led to a dynamic expansion in renewable energies and in order to harmonise climate change objectives with the conservation of biodiversity, the interests of nature conservation and landscape management must be fully considered.
This raises the question of what consequences will arise for the environment and society if Victorian renewable energies are gradually expanded until the State Government's legislated climate goals are reached? The Victorian Government has set ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by increasing the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) to 50 per cent by 2030.
Economic models and financial mechanisms should be developed and deployed to provide transparency around environmental, social, and economic trade-offs. This will ensure that the full impacts of decarbonisation are recognised, and the societal and environmental benefits are maximised.
HVDC has experienced a dramatic global expansion in use over recent years, as well as putting cables underground rather than stringing lines overhead. Historically, the higher cost of HVDC and undergrounding was a significant deterrent to its use. However, with lower cost production methods, improved technologies and increased reliability, the cost differential between underground HVDC cables and overhead lines is rapidly narrowing.
Globally, transmission network developers are more frequently turning to underground HVDC as an economically viable and environmentally sensitive way of providing redundancy, resilience and reliability in transmission networks.
Leadership is required to address the interdependencies between achieving decarbonisation and non-climate related environmental degradation and harmonise environmental policies with decarbonisation strategies, with respective bodies working together at state, national and international levels.
State Government, local government, businesses and individuals have an obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare Victoria for the impacts of climate change. We must strive to achieve decarbonisation targets whilst maintaining environmental standards.