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Australians spend about $50 billion on energy each year, while energy exports earn more than $24 billion a year. The sector involves massive, long-lived capital items such as electricity plants, transmission lines, coal, oil and gas production facilities, pipelines, refineries, wind farms as well as a multitude of smaller facilities such as wholesale and retail distribution sites.
The production and use of energy comes with a major environmental challenge. Energy is the largest single contributor to global emissions of greenhouse gases. Transport emissions are a significant source of urban air pollution. Energy projects can affect Australia's air and water quality, biodiversity, noise levels and heritage, and must be sensitively managed. New technologies such as renewable energy meet these challenges.
Demands for energy in Australia is projected to increase by 50 per cent by 2020, and the energy industry has estimated that at least $37 billion in energy investments will be required by 2020 to meet the nation's energy needs. Meeting this increased demand for energy, while moving to a low-emissions future, is a key challenge facing Australia's future growth and living standards.
Developing Australia's abundant low-cost energy resources is a key to our future prosperity. Australia is the world's fourth largest producer, and largest exporter, of coal. We supply 8 per cent of the world trade for liquefied natural gas, and possess 40 per cent of the world's low-cost uranium reserves.
Our known oil reserves are significant, but are projected to decline in the absence of new discoveries. Australia has significant wind and solar resources, and limited large hydro resources. Investment committed to energy projects under development in Australia totalled $11.1 billion at April 2004.
Renewable energy is an essential part of Australia's low emissions energy mix and is important to Australia’s energy security. It plays a strong role in reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and helping Australia stay on track to meet its Kyoto target and beyond. Australian Government support for renewable energy assists industry development, reduces barriers to the national electricity market, and provides community access to renewable energy.
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