Coal on rise in electricity supply: report

Coal use and carbon emissions are on the rise in Australia’s electricity supply, with use of high-polluting brown coal in particular now at its highest level in three years.

Combined black and brown coal use now accounts for nearly 75 per cent of electricity produced in the National Electricity Market, the latest Cedex (carbon emissions index) from consultants Pitt & Sherry has revealed.

And since the removal of the carbon tax in July, 2014, carbon emissions from the NEM – Australia’s east coast electricity network – have risen.

Pitt & Sherry principal consultant Hugh Saddler said annualised carbon emissions for the year to April, 2015 were up 3.1 per cent on the year to June, 2014.
June 2014 was the low point for NEM carbon emissions, coming at the time when the carbon tax had its greatest effect prior to its repeal.

Brown coal, which is burned in Victoria, has become a cheaper, more attractive option since the removal of the carbon price and now accounts for 24 per cent of generation, the Cedex report shows – its highest share since the introduction of the carbon tax in 2012.

Wind power accounted for 5.25 per cent of supply in the year to April, 2015, but Dr Saddler said that share would decline as the effects of the uncertainty around the federal Renewable Energy Target washed through the market.

Dr Saddler said there were signs of a change in the market that could accelerate the upwards creep in emissions.

“The trend in emissions was until recently accompanied by a continuing fall in demand for electricity but it now appears that demand may be flattening out,” he said.

April 2015 was the second successive month in which annualised demand and generation have both increased.”

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