Carbon targets difficult as power sector emissions jump

Carbon targets difficult as power sector emissions jump


New data just released shows that it is going to be harder for Australia’s conservative Liberal-National government to meet the country’s international promises to cut total greenhouse gas emissions as power sector emissions jumped by 3.8 million tonnes in 2015.

According to the data compiled by industry analysts Pitt and Sherry and The Australia Institute pollution from power stations, which account for about a third of Australia’s total carbon emissions, was up 2.4 per cent compared with 2014.

tony-abbott-LIB-leader-speaksEmissions from electricity production, which was the prime target of the former Labor government’s carbon price legislation, are now 5.1 per cent higher than in June 2014.

That was when the current Liberal-National government, under then Prime Minister Tony Abbott, abolished the Labor legislation.

The rise in emissions is being driven in part by a switch back to coal-fired power as more gas gets diverted to offshore markets.

change-elelct-generation-fuel-pitt-sherryThe share of gas in the National Electricity Market, which supplies about 80 per cent of Australia’s population, fell to 11.2 per cent in December, its lowest proportion since mid-2010.

In a seemingly carefully calculated move the current government released information on Christmas Eve that indicated Australia’s total emissions rose 1.3 per cent in the year to June 2015, the first full year after the repeal of the carbon price laws.

West-Texas-wind-power-recordAn increase in electricity use is also pushing emissions higher, with demand for power showing the first annual increase since 2010.

A stalling in new renewable energy investments because of political uncertainty over the 2020 Renewable Energy Target has also curbed the rise of wind power.

changes-electricity-gen-emissions-coal-pitt-sherryIts share in December was unchanged from a year earlier at 5.7 per cent, while in the same month, black and brown coal accounted for 75.9 per cent of the NEM’s output.

Australia is likely to meet its 2020 target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by a modest five per cent on 2000 levels in large part because of surplus credits from a reduction in land clearing, particularly in Queensland and New South Wales.

Malcolm-Turnbull-Communication-Minister-Liberal-businessmanThe longer-term goal of reducing emissions by 19 per cent on 2000 levels by 2030, a commitment made by the government now led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Paris climate summit late last year, will require an average annual reduction of about 11 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent emissions from now.

Compared with 2005 levels, the cut is 26-28 per cent.

That target will be increasingly difficult without a change in policy, particularly towards curbing emissions from the energy sector, Dr Hugh Saddler, principal consultant at Pitt and Sherry told Fairfax Media.

“Australia is still largely dependent on coal for its electricity supply and, assuming electricity demand continues to rise, Australia’s carbon emissions will continue to rise,” Dr Saddler said.

tasmania-hydro-power-damThe 2015 increase in emissions might have been higher but for a slight rise in hydro electricity towards the end of the year.

The extra hydro input, though, will probably be hard to sustain without good rains, particularly for Hydro Tasmania.

“Tasmania is now facing a significant challenge as energy storage levels fell to below 24 per cent at the end of December as a consequence of an abnormally dry winter,” Pitt and Sherry said in its latest Cedex report.