Australia: GHG emissions from electricity generation rise in 2008

20 July 2009

Electricity generation across Australia's four eastern states produced one per cent or 1.9 million tonnes more greenhouse gas pollution in 2008, according to a new report released today by The Climate Group. Total electricity generation across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia was 195 million Megawatt hours (MWh) in 2008 and generated 188 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions.

Australia's reliance on large fossil fuel-fired power stations, particularly coal-fired generators, continued to dominate, with the amount of electricity produced by coal increasing by 1.9 per cent in 2008. The top 20 biggest emitting power stations across the four states in 2008 were all coalfired and accounted for more than 90 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation. In total, coal provided 87 per cent of electricity generation in 2008 and produced 95 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation.

Electricity generation from renewable sources increased by 10 per cent during 2008. Despite stronger growth than fossil fuel production in percentage terms, the relative size of the renewable sector, less than 5 per cent of overall generation, means this increase had very little impact on total greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions vary across the state

The emissions picture was not uniform, and varied across the states.

Victoria's electricity was the most carbon intensive of all four states, with every 100 MWh producing 117 tonnes of greenhouse gases. This was 33 per cent more carbon intensive than New South Wales and 74 per cent more intensive than South Australia, the least carbon intensive of all the four states.

Loy Yang A in Victoria produced the most emissions of any power station in 2008, emitting 18.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gases during the year, almost 20 per cent more than its nearest rival, the Hazelwood power station, also in Victoria.

Of the top 10 biggest emitting power stations in absolute terms in 2008, nine are based in New South Wales or Victoria, with the Gladstone power station in Queensland taking tenth spot. Total emissions from fossil fuel power stations grew in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. South Australia saw the only fall in emissions from its electricity generation, recording a fall of six per cent.

Rupert Posner, Australia Director of The Climate Group said: "If ever we needed a wakeup call that we must shift to less polluting electricity this is it. Renewable energy is far too small a part of our electricity mix."

"The irony is that climate change could well have reduced the electricity generated from renewable sources in 2008, with low rainfall meaning reduced output from our hydro generators."

"The increase in the renewable energy target can't come a moment too soon."

For more information contact Luke Muir on +61 (0)433 059 905 or Rupert Posner on +61 (0)3 9668 5798/(0)438 989 420.

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