So the current Minister for the Environment Malcolm Turnbull’s latest hollow pre-election statement is that the Australian ‘world of electricity’ should be zero emissions by 2050 (ABC television 24 September 2007). It’s hard not to be cynical when one contrasts the rhetoric of the government with what is actually happening in the ‘world of electricity’ generation.

What is actually happening? Well, at the time of writing you’ll be interested to learn that there are 11 new coal-fired powerstation projects in various states of completion across Australia. Representing 6 new facilities and 5 upgrades, these stations will produce around 25,000GWh of electricity, almost equal to the 30,000GWh of ‘low emission’ energy (not exclusively renewable, but under 200kg CO2/MWh and therefore potentially including nuclear power and the oxymoronic ‘clean coal’) which we saw the Coalition government publicly patting itself on its own back for this week. ‘Self-soothing’ I believe it’s called.

More… The amount of additional CO2 that will be pumped into our atmosphere as a result of our current short term proposed coal fired powerstation expansion (up to 2014) is conservatively estimated to be well over 20 million tonnes (20,957,073.60) per annum. Currently our electricity CO2 emissions are over 194 million tonnes (194,270,210) per annum. Adding this new amount takes us up to over 215 million tonnes (215,227,283.6) Co2 per annum from electricity generation. This represents an overall increase in total Co2 emissions from all sources (currently 559,074,490.00) of almost 4% or from round 35% to 38% for total CO2 emissions for electricity.

Not only does the Coalition government’s 15% target by 2020 add nothing to our overall renewable energy levels because this amount of renewable energy would be generated by existing State initiatives anyway, it does nothing to wind back our CO2 emissions from electricity production. If you do the math you will clearly see CO2 emissions are set to dramatically increase plausibly by a staggering 70 million tonnes per annum.

Here’s how it goes. Australia’s electricity production 2005-06 was 220,476 GWh. This expected to rise by over 50% (110,000GWh) by 2020 to 342,000GWh. If renewable energy is targeted to be approximately 48,300GWh, this leaves over 293,000GWh from non-renewable fossil fuel sources.

Currently Australia is producing around 202,000GWh from fossil fuel which is producing over 194million (194,270,210) tonnes of CO2 per annum. This means the projected shortfall of around 90,000GWh will be taken up by fossil fuel electricity generation by 2020.

Given that clean coal technology will not be commercially available until at least 2020 (if ever) this means the slated 25,000GWh of new coal-fired generation represents only a quarter to a third of the expected expansion of coal-fired fuel generation by 2020 ie we still have to find 65,000GWh from somewhere. If coal is still the preferred ‘cheap’ fuel source option, by 2020 we can look forward to additional CO2 emissions of over 50 million tonnes of CO2 on top of the 20 million above expected by 2014, making a grand total of well over 70 million tonnes!

If the above is true, by 2020 Australia will be producing over 264 million tonnes of CO2 per annum in electricity production alone. This is almost half our current CO2 output – 559.1 million tonnes of CO2 as at 2005. Oh, you can console yourselves that if by some miracle the government decides to go with gas rather than continue to push coal after 2014, the above figures are approximately halved. So that’s only an additional say 45 million tonnes of C02 per annum by 2020 – phew, I mean belch!

Contact: Henry Barrkman, Community Organiser, Greenpeace Australia
Email: [email protected]

Telephone: 02 9263 0312