Renewables reducing energy emissions more than pandemic

A record high share of renewables in August and September 2020 has led to a record low for fossil fuel generation, which over the year has impacted national emissions more than the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program has released their latest National Energy Emissions Audit analysing the electricity sector over the August & September period.

Key Points

  • Over the 12 months to the end of July 2020, emissions fell by nearly 14 Mt CO2-e, equivalent to a 4.6% drop, of which 1.6% was caused by the sharp fall in transport fuels and 2.5%, was caused by the displacement of coal generation by wind and solar.  
  • Black coal generation also reached a record low level of 49.5%, making September the fourth successive month in which, for the first time ever in the history of electricity supply in Australia, black coal generation supplied less than 50% of all electricity supplied to consumers. 
  • Total annual gas generation in the NEM was just 7.7%, slightly above the record low level, reached about a year and a half ago.
  • On Tuesday 22 September in South Australia, grid demand fell to a minimum level of 380 MW and wind and solar were supplying over 90% of all generation. 

“While the pandemic has felt all consuming, it has done little to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Annual transport emissions only reduced around 5%, and are already increasing back towards their pre-pandemic levels,” said Dr Hugh Saddler, author of The Australia Institute’s National Energy Emissions Audit.

“Renewables have been an incredibly effective way to lower emissions in what is still the highest emitting sector of our economy, electricity.”

“The bottom line is that gas makes electricity more expensive. Because of the relatively high cost of gas, both now and under all foreseeable futures, any policy which forces up the volume of gas generation can only force electricity prices up also,” said Richie Merzian, Climate & Energy Program Director at The Australia Institute.

“Gas in the power sector is almost at record lows. The federal government seems to be the only supporter of a ‘gas-fired recovery’ and according to our Climate of the Nation 2020 only 12% of the population support investing in gas.

“The absence of a national climate and energy policy framework has resulted in businesses and governments pursuing their own interests, and all too often, working at cross-purposes.”

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