AGL Energy has commenced works on a $152 million upgrade of the Bayswater coal-fired generator in the Hunter as new analysis produced by the Australian National University shows that Australia is not on track to reach zero net emissions by 2050, and the transition to a zero emissions grid was not happening fast enough.
The policy brief prepared by the ANU professor Andrew Blakers, professor Ken Baldwin and associate professor Matthew Stocks argues that Australia could achieve an 80 per cent reduction in emissions over the next two decades by accelerating investment in new wind and solar projects.
“Australia has a ‘golden opportunity’ to be much more ambitious with its zero emissions target,” Blakers said.
“Fossil fuel energy causes 80 per cent of Australia’s emissions. We can readily reach zero fossil energy by 2040, if we double the average rate of solar and wind deployment.”
The ANU researchers said that by increasing the pace of the construction of new wind and solar projects along with further investments in large-scale energy storage, such as pumped hydro energy storage projects, emissions could be significantly reduced while also delivering lower electricity prices for consumers.
“If we install solar and wind faster, then emissions fall faster and electricity prices will stay low,” Baldwin said.
In the briefing paper, the researchers added said that increasing the rate of emissions reductions in the electricity sector would make it easier for Australia to achieve emissions reductions in other sectors by electrifying more of Australia’s energy use.
“Australia can reduce emissions quickly by enabling a ‘big new market’ for electric vehicles, through a range of government measures,” Blakers said.
“Measures could include a rapid shift in government fleets to electric vehicles, short-term tax exemptions for electric vehicles and ramping up the number of charging stations on country roads and elsewhere to give people confidence to invest in EVs.”
Reacting to the report, Greenpeace Australia Pacific senior campaigner Glenn Walker said that it was “no surprise” that Australia was not on track to meet a zero emissions target by 2050, with leading coal generators planning to keep some plants operating for several more decades.
“It’s no surprise that Australia is not on track for net-zero emissions by 2050 when the nation’s biggest domestic carbon emitter, AGL, plans to keep its dirty and unreliable coal-burning power stations running until as late as 2048,” Walker said.
“The good news is that there is still a window of opportunity to rapidly reduce emissions by replacing ageing and unreliable coal-burning power stations with safe and reliable clean energy.”
“Just last week EnergyAustralia brought forward the closure of its Yallourn coal-burning power station in Victoria. The pressure is now on AGL to clean up its act and modernise its coal-dominated electricity generation portfolio by closing its dirtiest power stations like Loy Yang A and replacing them with wind and solar, backed up by batteries,” Walker added.
Greenpeace singled out AGL Energy for its current plans to continue operating its fleet of coal-fired power stations until as late as 2048 when the energy company plans to close the Loy Yang A power station.
The Loy Yang A power station, which burns brown coal in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, ranks as Australia’s largest single greenhouse gas emitter, producing more than 16.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in the 2019/20 financial year.
AGL confirmed on Wednesday that it had commenced works on a $152 million upgrade program at the company’s coal-fired Bayswater powers station.
AGL will upgrade each of the power station’s four generator units, boosting Bayswater’s output by an additional 100MW, as part of works that the company says are required to ensure the power station can continue operating reliability until the plant’s planned closure in 2035.
An estimated 600 contractors will be engaged throughout the upgrades, which are expected to be completed by the middle of the year and will see the power station go offline as the works are completed.
The works will include turbine upgrades and maintenance works across the power station’s boilers, air heaters and electrical equipment.
“Like most large thermal power stations, Bayswater has four separate generating units, allowing us to take each unit out of service for maintenance without impacting the security of supply for NSW,” AGL’s Chief Operating Officer, Markus Brokhof said.
With a total rated capacity of 2,640MW, Bayswater is one of Australia’s largest power stations, and ranked as the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019/20, behind only to the Loy Yang A power station, producing more than 14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.