Australia’s energy white paper mum on climate as emissions rise

Published 06:31 on April 8, 2015  /  Last updated at 05:40 on August 26, 2015  /  Asia Pacific, Australia  /  No Comments

Australia released its energy white paper on Wednesday, but did not indicate it was planning new policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions despite steadily rising carbon output from its electricity sector.

Australia released its energy white paper on Wednesday, but did not indicate it was planning new policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions despite steadily rising carbon output from its electricity sector.

The white paper, which the government promised to deliver when it took office, outlined priorities and strategies for the nation’s coal-dependent energy sector.

“Australian energy products and services must be delivered to households, business and international markets reliably and cost effectively so Australia can take full advantage of these natural endowments,” it said.

Australia is the developed world’s biggest carbon emitter on a per capita basis, and exports more than twice of its domestic emissions by fossil fuel sales to energy hungry Asian nations.

The paper made it clear that the government would not introduce incentives for Australia’s oldest coal plants to retire early, or policies to support cleaner supply sources.

“Prematurely forcing new technologies in the energy market through policy interventions runs the risk of early adoption coming at a higher cost and lower efficiency than if that product found its way into the market on a competitive basis,” it said.

With the exception of a reference to its Emissions Reduction Fund, the white paper did not make any mention of climate change, sparking criticism that Australia plans to continue relying on old, polluting energy sources, which would put its competitiveness at risk.

“There’s a welcome call for a national Energy Productivity Plan, but its goal is very feeble—a 40 per cent improvement by 2030 is not going to help us keep up when the US and other countries are aiming to double their energy productivity over the same timeframe,” Climate Institute CEO John Connor said in a statement.

RISING EMISSIONS

Meanwhile, another report released Wednesday showed Australia’s carbon emissions from electricity generation are rising.

In the year to Mar. 31, greenhouse gas emissions from Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) were 2.8% higher than in the year ending on June 30, 2014, according to the April issue of Cedex, a monthly report on energy-related emissions by consultancy Pitt & Sherry.

The NEM’s emissions intensity increased 4% over the same period.

“Annualised emissions from the generation of electricity increased again, as has happened every month since the end of June 2014,” the report said.

The increase is partly due to brown coal rising steadily after the government removed the price on carbon emissions for Australia’s 350 biggest emitters last year.

In the past twelve months, coal accounted for 75% of NEM generation, up from 72.9% in the year ending on June 30, 2014, the report said.

By Stian Reklev – stian@carbon-pulse.com

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