With COP26, the 26th UN Climate Change conference starting on 31 October, climate change is rarely out of the news.
Australia will be going to the talks in the unenviable position of being one of the world’s worst emitters of CO2 on a per person basis.
Whilst China and the USA are the largest total emitters of CO2 – together accounting for around 42% of global CO2 emissions – it’s startling to know that our CO2 emissions per person are 16.31 tonnes, more than double China’s per capita emissions and slightly higher than the US.
Why does Australia score poorly on per capita emissions?
Australia’s high level of emissions per person reflects our reliance on fossil fuels, despite rapid growth in solar and other forms of renewable energy.
Around three-quarters of Australia’s total energy comes from fossil fuels, with most of that from coal.
Other reasons for Australia’s high emissions include heavy use of fuel-based vehicles, an energy-intensive agricultural sector – and lots of air-conditioning!
Our carbon footprint matters
What we do as individuals matters when it comes to climate change.
Did you know that Australian households generate at least one-fifth of Australia’s greenhouse gases?
Switching to renewables to power our homes – and our cars – makes a huge contribution towards emissions reduction.
Electricity accounts for almost two-thirds of the average Australian household’s emissions. Given that the electricity we buy from the grid is mostly from coal-fired power stations, replacing it with electricity from renewable sources is good for the environment.
If, for example, you lived in Scotland this wouldn’t be an issue as wind power accounts for 98% of the country’s electricity needs. Putting solar on your home in Scotland wouldn’t make a big contribution to CO2 reduction as the energy you’d buy from the grid is already from renewable sources.
But that’s not the case in Australia.
Using 100% grid electricity will do nothing to cut your carbon footprint. Whereas putting solar panels on your roof will make a huge difference – and help with green energy for Australia
What are the CO2 savings for a family home?
An average 4-person Australian home uses around 20 kilowatt hours per day, but this can easily shoot up to 40 kilowatt hours if you’re running a pool pump, split systems or an electric vehicle.
If this family installed a 10kW solar power system, it would produce approximately 40 kilowatt hours a day.
Each kilowatt hour of solar power that’s generated means one less kilowatt hour of grid electricity. A coal-fired power station produces 1.18 kilograms of CO2 per kilowatt hour of electricity generated. Not using grid electricity saves these emissions from being released into the atmosphere.
Our Aussie family who are generating 40 kilowatt hours a day would save around 47.2kg of CO2 emissions a day. Over the period of a year, this is a reduction of 17 tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent of 3.5 fewer cars on the road.
Any surplus solar power that’s not used in the home is exported to the grid. This further reduces the amount of power required from coal-fired power stations. That’s why solar is a win for the environment, as well as for households keen to cut their emissions.
Is solar power CO2 free?
Critics of solar power will point to negative effects of solar energy on the environment. What are these environmental impacts? Do the green benefits of solar panels outweigh the negative ones?
The three most talked-about environmental issues relating to solar panels are the high energy required in the manufacturing process, chemicals and recycling.
We’ll tackle these one-by-one:
Energy required in manufacturing
Significant amounts of energy are required to produce solar panels. Raw materials must be mined, with the predominant material being quartz which is processed into silicon to make solar cells. Other key materials are aluminium, copper and silver which must also be mined, processed and transported.
The energy required to make a solar panel from basic raw materials to finished panel is called the ‘embedded energy’. In most cases, it only takes two years from when the solar panels are installed to recover this energy. After that, the panels are generating clean energy with zero environmental cost.
Quality solar panels are designed to perform effectively for at least 25 years – more often 30 years or longer. This means that for at least 23 years, your solar panels will be contributing positively to greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
Hazardous chemicals are used to process silicon. The way in which these chemicals are handled depends on the manufacturer and the country of origin.
Whilst leading solar panels manufacturers have strict controls to ensure proper handling of chemical waste residues, this isn’t the case for all manufacturers.
Independent third parties – such as Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition – publish an annual scorecard that shows “how companies perform on sustainability and social justice benchmarks to ensure that solar panel manufacturers protect workers, communities and the environment.”
Manufacturers like Jinko Solar have performed well in this scorecard in recent years.
Do your research and choose quality solar panels from manufacturers who take their environmental responsibilities seriously.
Until recently, recycling solar panels wasn’t a big issue as most panels were still in operation. However, this is changing rapidly as systems age and customers demand environmentally-friendly solutions for their disposal.
Currently, in Australia, solar panels can be disposed of with standard e-waste. There are also new solutions coming on-stream that offer good alternatives for solar panel recycling such as Reclaim PV Recycling, who aim “to ensure 100% recycling of materials and that no material is dumped in landfill.”
Why is NOW the perfect time to take action?
There are heaps of reasons why now is a great time to get a rooftop solar panels system. Here are just a few:
- Government solar rebates are strong but they are scheduled to reduce for all systems installed from 1 January 2022. Get your order placed with Solar Run by 15 November to beat the rebate cut.
- Electricity prices are rising every year. With solar you’re on the road to energy independence and greater protection from electricity price hikes.
- Solar prices are the best they’ve ever been. But with the looming solar panel shortage from China, industry experts are predicting prices rises.
- Emissions reduction is now everyone’s responsibility. With solar, you are doing the right thing by the environment and helping Australia play its part in global emissions reduction.
Get in touch with us today to find out about the financial and environmental savings you could get with solar.