The BIG question

Contact asks four UQ researchers: is renewable energy is sustainable?

Associate Professor Matt McDonald

Associate Professor, School of Political Science and International Studies

“A large-scale transition to renewable energy is urgently needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change. The real issue is the politics of this transition, especially in countries like Australia. Moving away from fossil fuels requires political leadership, and we haven’t seen a lot of that in climate policy.”

Dr Martina Linnenluecke

Senior Lecturer in Sustainability, UQ Business School

“Energy from wind, solar, hydro or biomass is commonly labelled ‘renewable’. However, to be sustainable, renewable energy needs to result in economic, environmental and social benefits. The impending clean tech revolution will lead to significant economic growth. The challenge is to minimise the ecological costs of this transition and to maximise social benefits across countries.”

Professor Peta Ashworth

Chair in Sustainable Energy Futures,School of Chemical Engineering
Affiliate Professor,School of Social Science

“Most would answer yes, as renewable energy sources are naturally occurring, inexhaustible in supply and have a low environmental impact. However, many renewable energy sources require back-up storage. Thus their economic sustainability tends not to compete with cheaper fossil fuel generation. Regardless, the need for transitioning to a sustainable energy future is upon us.”

Professor Paul Meredith

Australian Research Council Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award Fellow, Faculty of Science

“One of the world’s greatest challenges in the coming decades is ensuring secure and reliable access to sustainably sourced energy. The development of large scale, baseload renewable energy will be a central element in addressing this challenge, as we ensure an ‘orderly transition’ from carbon-based fuel sources. The sustainability of renewable energy relies upon it being cost effective and being able to replace traditional power-generating technologies without a complete and immediate redesign of the energy system being required.”