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Issues

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        At a glance

        The issue

        Energy is fundamental to living standards and to the conduct of economic activity. Energy is central to production in industry, the mobility of people, the provision of goods and services, the processing and transmission of information and, in a domestic context, the provision of comfort and liveability (NSW EPA 2000). Energy costs, including transport, are a significant factor in almost all goods and services. However, some costs that are not reflected in the price of energy are the environmental costs of energy production and use, such as the emission of gases and particles from the burning of fossil fuels.

        Energy can be classed as renewable or non-renewable. Renewable energy sources, such as wind and hydro-electricity, are a significant energy resource for Tasmania. Biomass fuel, such as wood, may be described as 'conditionally renewable' as its collection and use requires the management of biodiversity impacts from harvesting, sustainable production from wood lots, and the maintenance of air quality in urban centres through the efficient operation of wood heaters.

        Non-renewable energy sources include fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, coal and fuels derived from oil including oil shale and tar sand. Australia's main non-renewable energy resources, upon which Tasmania is dependent for about half of its total energy requirements, are natural gas, crude oil, condensate and liquid petroleum gas.

        Inadequate access to energy can be as concerning in a colder climate as the consequences of unsustainable use of energy. Poverty restricts access to basic material needs such as heating and transport. While these issues are beyond the scope of this Issue Report, Social and Economic Conditions are reviewed separately in the Settlements Chapter.

        This 'At a glance' section provides an overview of the issue of energy sources and use in Tasmania. More detailed information and references are available in the Energy Sources and Use Issue Report. The two indicators presented in this Issue Report, Energy Use and Energy Sources, provide a perspective on trends and changes in energy and the interactions between energy and environment.

        Energy production and use is often inextricable from a range of social, economic and environmental costs and benefits. Other sections in this report describe other energy-environment relationships. Inundation of vegetation and other natural features from dam development is referred to in the Land Clearance Issue Report. The most significant form of air pollution in Tasmania is from solid fuel combustion in wood heaters and fireplaces. Launceston is found to have the greatest particle-related ambient air problems in the State (DPIWE 2000). The impact of firewood collection is also becoming increasingly apparent in Tasmania and Australia generally. The Particulate Pollution Issue Report describes air quality consequences of the use of firewood for home heating while the Firewood Collection and Usage Issue Report describes its biodiversity consequences.

        Energy sources and use is associated directly and indirectly with a number of the recommendations presented in this report. These include:

        Favourable news

        • In March 1999, the Australian Government and the building industry, represented by the Australian Building Energy Council, agreed on a national strategy to improve energy efficiency in Australian buildings. The strategy includes best practice in building design, construction and operation, and elimination of worst energy performance practices by including minimum performance standards in the 'Building Code of Australia' (AGO 2001). Some councils in Tasmania have adopted the requirements of improved building design by providing rebates for buildings that achieve a certain energy efficiency rating.
           
        • The completion of the first stage of Hydro Tasmania's wind farm development at Woolnorth is an important national initiative in renewable energy development. A new wind farm development on King Island will allow an additional 30% of electricity consumed on the island to be sourced from a renewable resource. This will reduce the consumption of diesel by approximately 1 million litres per annum, with a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions.
           
        • The provision of reticulated gas to industrial, commercial and, ultimately, residential users in the State will provide better energy options and enable improvements in the match between energy source and use.
           
        • The Basslink undersea cable link to Victoria will provide for better security of electricity supply, greater flexibility in the operation of the existing hydro-electricity system, and provide mainland markets for premium peak and intermediate load power. The Basslink development opens the opportunity for significant further development of renewable energy in Tasmania, thus greatly contributing to Australia's Mandated Renewable Energy Targets.
           
        • Energy consumption has historically kept pace with economic output in the State, although themost recently available statistics suggest that the State economy grew at a slightly greater rate than energy use. From an environmental point of view, achieving employment and economic development in less energy-intensive industries is beneficial. However, such changes may also be accompanied by industrial restructuring and this has had adverse consequences for some sectors and regional centres in the State.
           
        • Total and per capita energy consumption continues to rise in Tasmania, although the rate of increase has declined in the most recently available data. Data available from ABARE for 1997-98 indicated energy consumption for Tasmania of 203.4 GJ/capita. Per capita, Tasmania uses less energy than any other State or Territory in Australia and hydro-electricity in Tasmania produces no greenhouse gas emissions. However, lower-per-capita energy consumption in Tasmania than the rest of Australia may be because some other States (particularly Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland) have experienced a comparatively rapid growth in energy intensive industry since the mid-1970s.
           

        Unfavourable news

        • Approximately half of Tasmania's total energy requirements are sourced from non-renewable energy sources comprising petroleum products and coal.
           
        • The Basslink undersea cable link to Victoria will allow Tasmania to import up to 2,600 GW/h/year of brown coal generated electricity, which is over 25% of the current annual electricity requirement in Tasmania (NSR Environmental Consultants 2001). The mainland will gain access to Tasmania's water and wind power resources for peak power and intermediate load situations.
           
        • There is anecdotal information that efficiency gains in motor vehicle fuel consumption over a number of years are being offset by the increasing popularity of large four-wheel drive vehicles. However, there is limited information on the extent to which vehicle purchasing choices are influencing overall trends in consumption of automotive petroleum products in Tasmania.
           

        Uncertain news

        • There is uncertainty about how energy supply and demand will evolve in the coming years in response to global imperatives following the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (for more information see The Australian Greenhouse Office, International Activities). There is uncertainty as to whether the present, largely voluntary, emission reduction measures will need to eventually be replaced with more stringent measures in order to respond to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. There is general recognition that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable globally, and this will translate to national and regional obligations. There is uncertainty about the scale of adaptation responses that will be necessary both in reducing energy use and in responding to the consequences of climate change.
           
        • There is uncertainty about the ultimate scale and extent of wind farm development in the State, although the Australian Government's review of renewable energy policy may assist in clarifying the direction of the renewable energy industry. A strategic plan for wind farm development for Tasmania will be possible following the outcomes from the current review. This strategic plan will also be enhanced by the results from the ongoing monitoring of environmental parameters for existing wind farm developments.
           
        • The previous SoE Report (1997) referred to a government instruction to agencies to reduce energy consumption by 10% over the subsequent two financial years (1997-98 and 1998-99). There is limited information on the extent to which these initiatives were achieved and maintained in subsequent years, although there are some notable demonstration projects such as the purchase of an energy efficient hybrid-powered vehicle by DPIWE.
           

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