Energy & Policy

This Environment and Governance research theme delivers leading research on energy, water, food, and conservation policy and systems. Key projects are outlined below.  

Energy & Carbon Invested to Transition to Renewable Energy

In an interdisciplinary project involving researchers from several UNSW schools, Mark Diesendorf, Thomas Wiedmann, and Nicholas E. Hamilton investigate the transition to an energy system based predominantly or entirely on renewable energy. This includes calculating the energy return on energy invested (known as EROI or EROEI) and carbon saved on carbon invested under various transition scenarios. They have published articles in Renewable Energy (Modelling the carbon budget of the Australian electricity industry's transition to renewable energy), Energy (Computing life-cycle emissions from transitioning the electricity sector using a discrete numerical approach), The Conversation ("Renewable energy breeding” can stop Australia blowing the carbon budget – if we’re quick) and Ecological Economics (Implications of trends in energy return on energy invested (EROI) for transitioning to renewable electricity). 

Busting Myths About Renewable Energy

In this ongoing project, Mark Diesendorf and Ben Elliston challenge the reactions from incumbent energy industries and their supporters in the media and government, which have involved the dissemination of unsupported critical assertions about renewable energy, for example, that base-load power stations are necessary for a reliable electricity system; or that a transition to 100% renewable energy must take several generations. This research project critiques such myths by a combination of technical and social analysis and recommends appropriate lines of policy. They have published articles in Energy Policy (Least cost 100% renewable electricity scenarios in the Australian National Electricity Market), Renewable Energy (Comparing least-cost scenarios for 100% renewable electricity with low emission fossil fuel scenarios in the Australian National Electricity Market), and Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews (The feasibility of 100% renewable electricity systems: a response to critics). 

Technology Assessment of Nuclear Power 

In this ongoing project, Mark Diesendorf and Richard Broinowski engage in a critical examination of nuclear power: economics; environmental, health and social impacts; proliferation implications. Diesendorf has published in Energy Research & Social Science (20182016) and Conservation Biology (Subjective judgments in the nuclear energy debate). 

Australia's Nuclear Archive

Australia’s Nuclear Archive project approaches the Australian nuclear fuel cycle as a future cultural and environmental heritage. The project establishes international best practice in ‘marking’ deep geological nuclear waste repositories so as to inform Australian policy and practice. Conversely, one of the key contributions of the project is to argue that there is also a distinctly Australian approach to nuclear heritage. Australia is a critical site for understanding nuclear heritage internationally because it is both home to the world’s oldest continuous cultures as well as one-third of all known uranium. The principal investigator is N.A.J. Taylor, and the project sponsors include the Killam Trusts and The University of British Columbia.