The development of a complex and dynamic system such as the energy sector requires a comprehensive understanding of its constituent components and their interactions, and thus requires approaches that can adapt to the dynamic complexity in systems. Previous efforts mainly used reductionist approaches, which examine the components of the system in isolation, neglecting their interdependent nature. Such approaches reduce our ability to understand the system and/or mitigate undesirable outcomes. We adopt a system dynamics approach to construct an integrated model for analysing the behaviour of the energy sector. Although the Australian energy sector is used as a case study, the model can be applied in other context elsewhere around the world The results indicate that the current trajectory of the Australian energy sector is unsustainable and growth is not being controlled. Limits to growth are fast approaching due to excessive fossil fuel extraction, high emissions and high energy dependency. With the current growth, Australia’s global CO2
emissions footprint will increase to unprecedented levels reaching 12% by 2030 (9.5% for exports and 2.5% for domestic). Oil dependency will account for 43% and 47% of total consumption by 2030 and 2050. By 2032, coal will be the only fossil fuel resource available in Australia. Expansion of investment in coal and gas production is a large risk.
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