Emissions soar as carbon price dumped, more coal burned | RenewEconomy

Emissions soar as carbon price dumped, more coal burned

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Greg Hunt says the carbon price didn’t work. But two new studies show that coal generation and electricity emissions have jumped sharply since the carbon price was dumped by the government 100 days ago.

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Greg Hunt says the carbon price didn’t work. But two new studies show that coal generation and electricity emissions have jumped sharply sinc the carbon price was dumped by the government 100 days ago.

Oct emissions

Two new studies released on Tuesday show that electricity emissions in Australia have taken a dramatic turn for the worse, just as the international climate change body and the United Nations called for a rapid decarbonisation of the world’s energy systems.

The two new studies show that brown coal and black coal generation has jumped sharply in the four months since the carbon price was dumped by the Abbott government. The share of coal has gone up from 69.6% of sent out electricity in June to 76.4% in October.

And emissions have also jumped sharply, with one study from the Melbourne Energy Institute saying “emissions intensity’ has already jumped an “unprecedented” 10 per cent, and another saying that Australia’s aggregate emissions could rise more than 10 per cent over the year, after falling nearly that much while the carbon price was in place.

This comes as Australia’s conservative politicians commit themselves even deeper to coal. The mining lobby has insisted that coal is “here to stay” and the Australian government – which apart from dumping the carbon price also wants to slash the deployment of renewables – has fallen in behind.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has responded to the IPCC report by saying that Australia’s best hope of reducing emissions is by cleaning up coal, but the technology he cites will not be ready before 2020, according to the CSIRO, and many doubt it will ever be effective or price competitive.

Critics say it will only bring the emissions of brown coal down to the level of black coal, and the IPCC report makes clear that fossil fuel generation of all types needs to be cut rapidly.

hazelwood_emissionsVictoria Premier Dennis Napthine, meanwhile, says the state must continue to rely on brown coal generators such as Hazelwood (pictured) and has ruled out any shutdown of the state’s highly-polluting brown coal power generators.

This is despite Tasmania offering to replace one of those generators with “baseload” renewables – a mix of hydro and wind – and South Australia aiming for 50 per cent renewables by 2025. It is already at 40 per cent wind and solar.

In Germany, one of the country’s largest brown coal generation company, the Swedish-based Vattenfall, has announced plans to exit brown coal and focus instead on renewable energy sources.

Hunt – while promoting the greater use of brown coal and the deployment of technologies that have not yet been developed – has been insisting that the carbon tax did not work. But the evidence proves the opposite is true.

Hugh Saddler, from Pitt&Sherry, in his latest monthly analysis, reports that the “emissions intensity” – the amount of greenhouse gases per megawatt hour of electricity – has already jumped 10 per cent in the short time between June and October, and total emissions have risen despite an overall fall in demand and production (see graph above).

One of the reasons is reduced hydro generation, which with the removal of the carbon price has less incentive to be produced. In its place has come an increase in brown coal generation as well as black coal generation, which is rebounding after dramatic falls in previous years (see graph below).

oct generation

The impact was compounded by lower gas-fired generation and wind generations (due to lower wind speeds. See our story, Is Australia about to reach peak wind?).

Saddler says that these trends, sustained over a year, would represent an increase of more than 1 per cent Australia’s national emissions, which he says is “not negligible when set against an official target of 5% reduction.” Or an even higher target of 19 per cent as called for by the Climate Change Authority, and the IPCC.

Meanwhile, Mike Sandiford, from the Melbourne Energy Institute at the University of Melbourne, says the  “the odds are firming that we will smash previous records with an unprecedented rise in our electricity sector emissions by around 9 per cent this financial year.”

Sandiford says that in the first hundred days since the repeal of the carbon price, emissions in the National Electricity Market  were up 4 million tonnes on the equivalent period last financial year.

“To put it in historical context, this recent increase in emissions is currently tracking at about 250% higher than the previous largest recorded increase,” he writes.

Meanwhile, Greens leader Christine Milne says the decision by Abbott to abolish the carbon price clearly meant that the coal industry would benefit.

“Tony Abbott always intended to back coal against renewable energy. He is a climate denier,” she said in a statement. By putting a price on carbon, we had seen the emissions from electricity generation come down. They were down by at least four per cent. it was a really good news story.”

She also said i was “a nonsense” for Hunt to suggest that with Direct Action he’s suddenly going to have the technology to clean up coal. “Why would the coal industry bother with new technology when they don’t have a cap on emissions, when they don’t have to pay for their pollution, and when the taxpayer is handing out the dollars to prop them up.

“The only way technology will save the day for the planet is by helping us shift to renewable energy. That’s why we should be keeping the Renewable Energy Target at 41,000gwh by 2020 and increasing it to 100 per cent as soon as possible.”



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  1. John P 6 years ago

    Reading a piece like this makes it so much easier to see who the main Liberal Party donors are. The ICAC hearings in NSW even show us how it is done.

  2. Neville Bott 6 years ago

    Look on the bright side this will forever be an excellant example of how a market economy works that can be used in economics text books.

  3. Alexander Dudley 6 years ago

    Anyone who believes that this government isn’t lying about its commitment to the environment is a fool. This looks like textbook corruption.

  4. Blair Donaldson 6 years ago

    I wonder how Greg Hunt can look in the mirror and not be sickened by the duplicitous bastard he sees there? One thing is for certain, any credibility he may have once possessed has been well and truly sold down the river. I wonder if his descendants will ever forgive him?

    • Carol 6 years ago

      Totally agree, given his thesis on carbon pricing I wonder how he justifies such hypocrisy.

      • Blair Donaldson 6 years ago

        Yes, I would love to know how Hunt reconciles his presumably well researched thesis with his current position? Maybe he enjoys the perks of short-term power and values his integrity about as much as he values his old thesis? I just hope he is forced to personally account for his pathetic behaviour.

    • Motorshack 6 years ago

      That’s giving him too much credit, I should think.

      Jackal sniffing around the rotting remains of a dead animal would be more like it.

      Point is, jackals are presumably perfectly happy with the niche they fill in the grand scheme of things. From their point of view it’s one free, tasty meal after another.

  5. coomadoug 6 years ago

    If Tony Abbot came on TV tonight and told us the government was going to invest 2.5 billion in a video rental business, I would see a link between that decision and stupidity.

    I wonder what is the most respectful choice here in the “coal is great” tee shirt he is wearing. Should I allow myself to think our PM is an idiot or should I conclude criminal negligence in light of the science. This makes the children overboard and the weapons of mass destruction tee shirts John Howard wore, look a bit dull.

    The risk taken here is more blatant negligence. The Howard stance was a vote winner. This coal thing is extremely dangerous but also a vote looser. For Abbot to lie in a way that costs him votes makes me feel really bad about this government.

    • Blair Donaldson 6 years ago

      I really hope our current PM and his environment Minister wind up doing time for this gross dereliction of duty.

      • John P 6 years ago

        We recently heard PM Abbott telling us, in relation to terrorism and the loss of MH17, that the main duty of government is to “keep the community safe”.

        Somehow he is able to ignore the looming climate change disaster.

        I call that dereliction of duty too. It reflects poorly on his intellectual capacity as well. Although there seems little intellectual capacity anywhere on that front bench.

        • Blair Donaldson 6 years ago

          It might be the case that we are crediting Sir Pository with more intelligence than he actually possesses? He can easily see the parts of a downed aircraft in a field, the concept of an invisible gas produced by burning fossil fuels seems to be a little beyond his grasp – if he can’t see it, it must be a conspiracy.. But Tone has shown us he doesn’t care much for science, or truth.

  6. Glen S 6 years ago

    This government are ridiculously transparent when it comes to showing who they are looking after. To willfully toss aside the threat of climate change purely to look after the short term interests of some coal giants is absolutely scandalous. He clearly thinks that his buddies profits are more important than the future of even his own children. Sad state of affairs.

  7. Cartoonmick 6 years ago

    The simple solution to future pollution is depicted in this cartoon . . . .



  8. Les Johnston 6 years ago

    The future trends in energy demand forecasting indicate that the previous years drop in energy demand was triggered partly by consumer awareness and desire to reduce energy pricing. With the predicted increase in air temperatures this summer, the consumers will respond by further installations of a/c systems and a return to increases in peak energy demands during summer. The picture looks comfortable for the fossil generators with $2.5billion tax payer funds coming their way and an increase in energy generation.
    A Royal Commission into energy subsidies will be called for by the next government. Bring it on.

  9. Rob G 6 years ago

    What these guys are doing is criminal, and they may very well be punished for this in the near future. The first step will be the next election where defeat will be swift, but it won’t stop there, corruption, kick backs etc. They can and should be considered in the same way that war criminals are – that is, they are unchecked in their actions and they are the law unto themselves. Humanity is being harmed by their actions and that is punishable.
    Yesterday, 13 different polls gave Labor a landslide victory – people have had enough.

  10. Billy Bangle 6 years ago

    As I understand it, about 70% of the decline in nuclear has been taken up by Carbon, leading to the highest Carbon output for 10 years. In spite of this, Germany is still paying twice the price of France (30c vs 15c/kwh).


    “You want an intermittent power source that’ll drive pricesthrough the roof and cause increased CO2 emissions?
    Why, certainly, we’ve got just the policy for ya.”

    From Der Spiegel

    “German Energiewende a costly environmental disaster”

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