Greenhouse gas emissions down 1.6 per cent this summer in Australia's eastern states

21 March 2010

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Greenhouse gas emissions from energy use across Australia’s four eastern states fell this summer by 1.6 per cent or just over 1.2 million tonnes compared with last summer. The fall came despite the summer being one of the hottest on record in Australia with maximum temperatures 0.55 degrees above average and minimum temperatures of 0.76 degrees above average (high temperatures tend to have a strong correlation to high electricity use, due to the increased need for cooling, causing a spike in emissions).

The figures were released today as part of The Climate Group’s Greenhouse Indicator Summer Report, which tracks the main sources of greenhouse emissions (those produced by coal, natural gas and petroleum) in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia and compares them with the previous year.

The fall in emissions to 74.8 million tonnes was driven by a 1.6 per cent reduction in emissions from coal-fired electricity generation (692,000 tonnes), and an 8.4 per cent fall in emissions from the use of natural gas (608,000 tonnes).

The overall fall in emissions from coal was entirely due to a substantial fall in coal-use in New South Wales, where emissions from black coal generators were down by 8.24 per cent, or 1.35 million tonnes on last summer. In Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, emissions from coal rose compared with last summer, up by 1.89, 1.35 and 18.38 per cent (655,000 tonnes combined).

The overall fall in emissions from natural gas was due to a substantial decrease in gas used for domestic and industrial purposes across all four states. Emissions from this category of gas use fell by 21 per cent or more than a million tonnes compared with the previous summer. This fall was partially offset by a 13.5 per cent rise in electricity generation from natural gas which resulted in an extra 405,000 tonnes of emissions.

Electricity demand fell 0.8 per cent across the four states combined. Emissions from petroleum products rose by 0.25 per cent on last summer or 62,000 tonnes.

Rupert Posner, Australia Director of The Climate Group said: “It is good that emissions fell compared with last summer, especially considering that it was one of the hottest summers ever on record across Australia. It is also heartening that this was helped by a reduction in electricity demand. Hopefully, this is an indication that we are becoming more conscious of how much energy we are using and the benefits of saving energy.

“While the amount of electricity we generated from coal fell by 3.5 per cent, disappointingly, this resulted in a smaller reduction in emissions because proportionally more electricity was generated by the most carbon intensive stations. This provides a clear indication of the benefit of introducing a price on carbon.”

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