Australia’s Electricity Supply is Getting Dirtier

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Monday, February 9th, 2015
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Carbon emissions from power generation rising even as overall energy demand drops

An increase in the amount of cheap but high-polluting brown coal burned to produce electricity, combined with lower gas and renewable energy production, has increased total emissions in the seven months since June, 2014, analysts Pitt & Sherry say.

Total CO2 emissions from electricity generation have increased in Australia since the carbon tax was repealed by the Abbott government last July and made brown coal in Victoria a more attractive option.

June 2014 remains the low point for electricity emissions.

Pitt & Sherry principal consultant Hugh Saddler says there was a hiatus in total emissions growth during January due to a sharp fall in electricity generation.

Electricity demand has been steadily declining in Australia for about five years.

However, Dr Saddler says the level of emissions has held steady as the mix of power sources shifts.

Pitt & Sherry says total emissions are 2.6 per cent higher in the year to January, 2015 compared to the year leading up to June, 2014 – an increase of four million tonnes.

And emissions intensity – the amount of carbon for each unit of power generated – has risen 3.3 per cent in the same period.

Coal now accounts for 74.7 per cent of electricity generation, up from 73 per cent in June 2014.

Dr Saddler said NSW was now getting more of its coal-fired electricity from interstate, with local generation falling.

“NSW generation has continued to fall since last June, whereas coal-fired generation in Victoria and Queensland has taken advantage of the removal of the carbon price by increasing output,” Dr Saddler said.

Dr Saddler said scrapping the carbon price had given brown coal a competitive advantage over black coal, gas and renewable sources.

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