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Electricity generation cleaner in Australia

27 October 2011
Electricity generation cleaner in Australia

MELBOURNE: The five states of Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) produced 3.8% fewer greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 for a total of 177 million tons, according to our new report released today.

Key findings were: 

  • Power station emissions down by 3.8%
  • Emissions intensity down by over 3%
  • Per capita demand down by almost 2%
  • Renewable energy and gas generation grow by 19% and 23%
  • State-by-state breakdown of performance
  • Australia’s biggest polluting power stations revealed

This represents a fall of 6.9 million tons compared to the previous year, which is the equivalent of taking almost 1.3 million households off the grid.

Across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, total electricity generation for 2010 was 211 million Megawatt hours (MWh), or 10.4 MWh per capita across the states. This is a fall of almost 2% in average demand per person on the previous year, suggesting that energy efficiency programs are successfully cutting Australia’s electricity demand.

The strongest driver for the fall in total emissions was a sharp 10% drop in coal-fired generation in New South Wales. This was made possible by a 60% boost to hydroelectricity output in the state following heavy 2010 rainfall, as well as substantially increased electricity imports from Queensland.

Queensland saw a 4% increase in demand for its power stations as a result, but met much of its expanded generation needs with two new gas-fired power stations.

Large coal-fired generators continued to dominate electricity generation, producing 78% of the NEM’s electricity and 93% of electricity related emissions in 2010.

The top 20 biggest emitting power stations were all coal-fired, and together produced 89% of emissions from electricity generation. The top five alone were responsible for 42% of NEM emissions.

Victoria was home to the three top emitting power stations in 2010: Loy Yang A, Hazelwood and Yallourn W, which released 19.0, 15.7 and 15.0 million tons of greenhouse gases respectively. These three power stations are among the least efficient power stations in the OECD, and were partly responsible for Victoria having an emissions intensity 37% higher than the NEM average. Victoria was the only state to show virtually no decline in emissions intensity over the four-year reporting history of the 2007-2010 Generation Report.

Hazelwood power station in Victoria and Playford B in South Australia shared the title for the most emissions intensive power stations in 2010. Playford B is relatively small (the 40th biggest generator in Australia) and generated 23% less power in 2010 than the previous year, helping to cut South Australia’s emissions intensity for the year. 

Zero-emissions renewable energy sources produced 11% of electricity across the NEM in 2010, an increase of 19% on the previous year. Growth in renewable generation was, however, due to weather patterns rather than expansion of renewables infrastructure. Unless the states double their recent rate of renewable energy expansion, Australia risks falling short of the 20% 2020 Renewable Energy Target.

Looking over the four-year reporting history of the 2007-2010 Generation Report, South Australia is the clear leader in expansion of renewable energy generation. The state tripled its per capita renewable energy generation over the period, and in 2010 produced more than 50% of wind energy in Australia. Tasmania, Victoria and then New South Wales follow, with Queensland the only state to see a decline in renewable energy generation over the four years.

Tasmania continues to be the Australia’s greenest state, producing 5% of total NEM electricity but just 0.3% of the carbon emissions in 2010. Heavy rains in the second half of the year saw Tasmania increase its hydroelectric power station output by nearly 10%.

First step in the clean energy journey

Caroline Bayliss, Australia Director of The Climate Group, said: “Australia moved in the right direction in 2010, using less electricity and producing it more cleanly – but we can afford to be much more ambitious.

“Of 196 countries in the world, only Botswana, South Africa, Cambodia, India, Kuwait and Libya produce dirtier power than Australia. 

“This is why measures in the Clean Energy Future package, as well as state leadership in renewable energy as we’ve seen in South Australia, are so important.”

For more information contact Caroline Bayliss on 03 9668 5798 / 0408 142 050. 


All scheduled fossil fuel and renewable energy power stations that contribute to the National Electricity Market (NEM) are included, as well as renewable energy power stations that are registered to create Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).

The report does not include generation from non-scheduled power stations, renewable energy generated from small solar power systems on private homes or from power stations not registered to create RECs.  

Please note that not all the power produced in each state is consumed in each state as states regularly export and import electricity via the National Electricity Market. 

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