The speech the PM can use to wow his Glasgow audience

Oct 21, 2021
Scott Morrison coal
Scott Morrison with a piece of coal in the House of Representatives in 2017. (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

If Prime Minister Scott Morrison really wants to make an impression at COP26 in Glasgow, here is what he should say.

Now that Prince Charles has suggested Prime Minister Scott Morrison should attend the Glasgow climate summit he will need to play his cards wisely.

This he can easily do by walking in with a lump of coal in one hand and a lump of silicon in the other.

He would then tell the most important audience he is ever likely to address how much energy can be obtained from each.

Holding up his lump of coal he would say, “If this weighed a kilo and we burnt it in a power station — and we have very efficient ones in Australia — we would get nearly 2.5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity. We would also get a bit over 2 kilos of carbon dioxide, some methane and a few other things like mercury, uranium and thorium. Most of that goes up the chimney but we hope to capture the gases one day and bury them somewhere.“

Then he would hold up his kilogram of silicon and say, “This piece of silicon can be made into solar cells and, because we in Australia design the best solar cells, I can tell you this can be made into 43 cells, each 441 square centimetres. And as they have a sunlight-to-electricity efficiency of 23 per cent, and we have an average of over six hours of sunlight in much of Australia, each kilo of silicon will give me about 2.5 kWh of electricity each day.

“This is the same as I got from my lump of coal. The difference is that my lump of coal lasts about a hundredth of a second in one of our coal-fired power stations. After that I have to buy more coal from somewhere. Unfortunately, the price keeps changing so I don’t know what it will cost from month to month.

“But my solar panel will last about 30 years. Over that time, if you do the sums, as I have done, you will find it will generate 165,000 kWh, or 66,000 times as much electricity as my piece of coal. And I know what sunlight will cost over 30 years — the same as it costs now!

“This looks like a miracle, except miracles don’t just happen. Our researchers have been working hard at this for 40 years. And because I follow this industry so closely I have more good news: by 2030 we expect the efficiency of cells should get to about 29.6 per cent. And still more: we are working to make cells that will last up to fifty years. Do the calcs and you will find you will get 350,000 kWh from your piece of silicon, or 140,000 times more than from your piece of coal. It’s the hare and the tortoise all over again and, as usual, endurance triumphs over speed.

“And let me tell you that at the moment wind power is just as good. Wind and solar complement each other. On days when the sun isn’t shining it’s usually because the wind is blowing stronger. Along the coast around Sydney, where I come from, we get a strong north-easter nearly every day in the warmer weather. That wind looks like it was designed to power our air-conditioners in the afternoon and our other electrical appliances at night. This means our Hunter Valley region and other ports like Gladstone in Queensland will be able to easily switch their heavy engineering from coal-mining to building giant wind turbines to be anchored off our coast, over the horizon and out of sight.

“So you can see why we in Australia are so enthusiastic about renewable energy. We have the energy trifecta. We have an outback which, if anything, has had too much sun up until now. We have a huge wind resource along much of our coast, especially in the south where the Roaring Forties are almost constant. And, particularly in the north, we have a massive tidal power resource — tides up to 11 metres twice a day and completely predictable, just waiting to be used, and close to Asia.

“Now you can see why I am such an optimist about Australia’s energy future. Coal and the other fossil fuels have served us well but their time is up, not just because they endanger our climate — the science is clear on that — but also because they can no longer compete on price. And price, as you all know, is the driver of all markets. We can be world leaders with these new technologies so I invite you all to join us in the greatest energy revolution the world has ever seen. And, of course, while we are generating cheap energy we are slashing our carbon emissions and helping lead the world out of this dreadful climate crisis. Through science, intelligence and vision we have arrived at a win-win point in human history. How good is that? Thank you.“

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