The Electric Boogalo Shuffle

November 11, 2010 at 8:44 am 2 comments

As anyone who follows these pages regularly would know, Victoria has a lot of Brown Coal. We dig massive holes the size of towns so can we burn it to heat water to make steam which makes our electricity. We also have plans to dig even more of it up so we can get other countries to burn it on our behalf. And if that doesn’t work we’ll bury it underground again after we’ve burnt it so we can continue to dig crater like holes in the Victorian countryside.

In fact – rather then withering on a vine Victoria’s brown coal industry looks like it might be set for a new vintage. The Age recently reported that a Transport Department submission revealed a possible $24 billion could be invested in brown coal over the next decade.

Well that’s the future, how do we stand now? As of 2008, 82% of our emissions came from Energy & Fuel combustion. In fact fuel combustion (mainly Public Electricity and Heat Production) rose from 77 Mt in 1990 to 100.8 Mt in 2008. That’s an in crease of 24 million tonnes (MT) and our emissions from brown coal increased by 10% at the same time.

Three different independent reports paint as less than perfect picture of Victoria’s dependence on fossil fuels and its lackluster effort in renewables:

The Climate Group, Electricity generation report 2009
The 2009 report by the Climate Group showed Victoria alone in it’s failure to curtail fossil fuel use in Australia. “Emissions from fossil fuel power stations declined in 2009 in all five states, except for Victoria.” Tasmania’s emissions actually fell 36% and in NSW, who has the largest amount of CO2 emissions (64.2 MT), still had a reduction of 4.7%. Where as our emissions increased by 0.7% to a total of 62.5 MT.

What’s worse (what could possibly be worse you may well ask) is that Victoria is home to the top three emitting power stations in the country, Loy Yang A, Hazelwood (who’s emissions grew by 3.4%) and Yallourn W. Not to mention we have five out of the top six most emissions intensive power generators. On top of this is the diversity of our energy portfolio. There is none. As of 2009 93% of Victoria’s energy came from digging up and burning brown coal.

It seems that so bad has our investment in renewables been over time, it was possible to double our renewable energy output in just one year. When the Waubra Wind Farm came online last year it added 1.1 million MWh to the grid and accounted for half of Victoria’s renewable energy, which represented a miserly 4% of electricity generation. Whilst Waubra is currently the largest wind farm in the Southern hemisphere, it was the States only source of renewable energy in Australia’s top 20 renewable producers (which is dominated by hydro).

Engineers Australia, 2010 Victorian Infrastructure Report Card
Engineers Australia recently downgraded Victoria from a C rating in 2005 to a -C in 2010. The report, while showing many positives for the State, showed that since 1999 we’ve had more in Gas than Wind come online for new generation capacity and have invested $244 million in clean coal via the Energy Technology Innovation Strategy (ETIS).

Furthermore, it highlights our comparative poor investment in wind; “Currently, wind accounts for 6% of Victoria’s generation potential capacity, compared to SA where it is 17%.” It goes on to say “The bulk of new investment in Victoria is to provide intermediate and peaking capacity to meet summer demand peaks”.

You could read this as the state investing to top-up our energy rather than replacing the dependency on our brown coal reserves.

Victoria’s Commisioner of Environemntal Sustainability, State of the Environment
The 2008 report State of the Environment (SoE) draws many of the same conclusions and gave Victoria an F in its environment report card. It’s difficult to think of Victoria as the garden state when you read “95% of Victoria’s electricity is supplied from brown coal, the most greenhouse-polluting energy source in Australia.”

The Commissioner goes on to say “It is clear that economic transformation is needed, particularly for the energy sector… Business as usual isn’t going to work” and that “Victoria has great potential for renewable energy, including wind, solar, wave and geothermal, yet very little has so far been exploited.”

It found that “4% of electricity comes from renewable energy sources with solar contributing just 0.006%.”

Ten years on
A decade ago in it’s Victorian Greenhouse Strategy Labor said that it “identifies an increase in the development and use of renewable energy resources as a priority action”. Yet ten years on and as the Climate Groups report shows, we’re at the back of the renewable pack.

Sustainability Victoria’s website shows that we are playing climate catch-up. When it comes to Wind capacity we currently have eight operating wind-farms, half of those having come on-line in the last three years accounting for 324 of the States 428mw of wind capacity. That’s 75% of all current wind generation in the last three years.

So when Labor says “Over the last ten years we have taken significant steps to reduce our emissions” you have to wonder where they got that idea from. When Labor came to power in 1999 the States emissions for the year was 118 mt. At no time since has our annual emissions reportedly dropped under that mark. In fact the SoE found that without further action emissions could increase by 40% by 2050 as opposed to the States target of a 60% reduction.

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Photos from the Replace Hazelwood Rally Protest at Jane Garrett’s campaign office

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