Australian Greenhouse Emissions Decline as Renewables Replace Coal

electricity tower sunset

Emissions generated by Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) have fallen to their lowest ever levels due to the increasing prominence of renewable energies in the nation’s power portfolio at the expense of conventional fossil fuel coal.

A new report by consulting group Pitt & Sherry indicates that electricity generation using black coal has declined steadily since the start of 2009 while generation using brown coal has fallen significantly in the past 12 months.

Over the past year, almost 3,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity has been shelved, including a 500-megawatt unit at the Wallerawang C power station close to Lithgow in New South Wales, as a direct result of changes in NEM’s make-up.

Gas and wind generators have seen steady overall increases since the middle of last decade. Gas generation hit its highest ever annualized level in January, while wind energy generation is set to reach a record peak sometime in the next several months following the commissioning of Victoria’s 420-megawatt Macarthur wind farm.

While growth in hydro power has been less consistent than gas or wind since 2005, total hydro electricity generation just reached its highest levels since the turn of the century on the back of record output by the Tasmanian hydro system, which joined NEM in 2005.

Australia National Energy Market

Australia National Energy Market. Image Source: GreenBizCafe

Total renewables, comprised of hydro plus wind, made up 12.1 per cent of NEM generation for the year to January 2013, their highest share in the energy systems which currently comprise NEM since the 1980s.

The National Electricity Market is Australia’s wholesale electricity market which operates in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, providing power to nearly eight million end-use consumers and trading around $11 billion in electricity per annum.

NEM commenced operation in December 1998, and is one of the world’s longest interconnected power systems, covering a distance of over of 4,000 kilometres from Port Douglas in Queensland to Port Lincoln in South Australia.

By Marc Howe
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