If Australia is going to meet its targets on reducing emissions from its energy sector and keeping energy prices under control, it’s going to need some revolutionary thinking from somewhere. And it needs to come quick, because the decisions taken over the next couple of years on spending tens of billions of dollar in energy infrastructure is likely to lock Australia into a path from where it will be difficult to reverse. Are the policy makers listening?

A new report by the University of Technology’s Institute of Sustainable Futures released today throws up a serious challenge to the network operators who plan to spend $45 billion on network upgrades in the current five-year period, and will likely do the same in the next.

The report, Think Small: The Australian Decentralised Energy Roadmap, says one third of this expenditure -- $15 billion in the current period -- could be avoided if Australia adopted decentralised energy technologies, such as efficient use of energy, peak load management and distributed generation, which means generating plants of 30MW or below, such as small wind farms, biomass plants, solar farms, rooftop PV, small hydro, fuel cells, cogeneration and trigeneration. The study, completed in collaboration with the CSIRO and four other universities, says these are the quickest and cheapest options to reducing emissions and meeting peak demand.