The Australia Institute launches National Energy Emissions Audit

by Hugh Saddler

Download The Audit (June 2017)

The Australia Institute has launched the National Energy Emissions Audit (The Audit), written by respected energy analyst and ANU Honorary Associate Professor, Dr Hugh Saddler, which tracks Australia’s emissions of greenhouse gases from the combustion of fossil fuels.

The National Energy Emissions Audit will be published on a quarterly basis, in September, December, March and June each year. In each intermediate month the NEEA Electricity Update will report on changes to emissions from electricity generation in the National Electricity Market (NEM).

The first edition of the National Energy Emissions Audit finds that Australia’s total energy emissions have increased in the quarter to March 2017 and, on the basis of official government projections, would reverse reductions and return to 2005 levels by 2030. In Paris, Australia committed to reduce emission by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030.

Finkel Review

A serious omission of the Finkel Review is the absence of any mention of the renewable energy targets adopted by the state governments of both Victoria (40%) and Queensland (50%), planning for both of which is well advanced.

On the basis of available information from both states the combined effect of these two programs, on top of the LRET, could increase the renewable generation share of NEM generation to about 30% in 2025 and 37% in 2030, i.e. as much or slightly more than the CET is estimated by the modelling to achieve.

“To turn a corner, and show the market the direction we’re heading in, there needs to be a strong ambition accompanying the CET model recommended by Finkel. Otherwise it will be, in effect business-as-usual, by another name,” Dr Saddler said.

“The increase in total energy emissions is being driven by gas used to produce Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) at the three export plants near Gladstone, in Queensland. The LNG-driven increase more than offsets reductions in emissions from electricity generation and petroleum combustion.

“The issue of how the electricity sector should contribute to Australia’s overall emissions reduction task is not addressed in the Finkel Review. Neither are major policies such as the renewable energy targets adopted by the state governments of both Victoria and Queensland, planning for both of which is well advanced.”


The Audit and government estimates show that in the absence of further policy action, Australia’s total emissions will increase from the 2015 level to between 571 and 616 Mt by 2030, i.e. back to the 2005 level. 

“This highlights just how far Australia currently is from being ‘on track’ to achieve its 2030 emissions reduction target. In the hype around the Finkel Review, this sobering reality seems to have been forgotten.”

“Furthermore, The Audit shows that aside from land clearing and land use changes, energy combustion emissions are also increasing.

“The data published in The Audit paints a picture of an electricity sector operating without regard for climate policy,” Dr. Saddler said.

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