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Coal power still reigns in Australia

May 16, 2011 at 1:26 PM   |   Comments

CANBERRA, Australia, May 16 (UPI) -- Australia's renewable energy share has fallen since 1960, claims a new report by an environmental group released Monday.

While renewable energy provided 19 percent of the country's electricity in 1960 by 2008 the amount had decreased to 7 percent, Environment Victoria's "Australia's Electricity Generation Mix 1960-2009" report indicates.

Coal-fired power has risen 1,200 percent since 1960 and accounts for more than 80 percent of the country's electricity.

Australia, also the world's biggest exporter of coal, aims to generate 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, by 2020.

"Sadly, we've made little progress in cleaning up our electricity supply over the past 50 years, with the growth of polluting coal generation far outpacing the growth of renewable energy," said Mark Wakeham, campaign director for Environment Victoria, in a statement. "This is a shocking performance given the strength of Australia's renewable energy resources."

From 2001-09, the study says, carbon dioxide emissions from coal power increased by about 14 million tons.

"Unless existing coal-fired power stations are retired it will be impossible to reduce our emissions and clean up our economy" Wakeham said. "What this research clearly shows is that without a price on carbon the Australian economy will continue with pollution-as-usual."

The report comes as the country's multiparty committee on climate change begins Tuesday to negotiate a deal on carbon pricing. The Labor government plans to introduce a carbon tax, or price, in July next year, before an emissions-trading system that may begin as early as 2015, as part of a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5 percent in 2020 compared with 2000 levels.

The country's carbon price, or tax, has widely been expected to begin at about $20-$30 a ton but confidential research by consulting firm Deloitte for Australia's Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, The Sydney Morning Herald reports in its Tuesday edition, concludes that unless the carbon price were to rise relatively quickly to $40 a ton, then coal would continue to be the cheapest way to generate power.

A separate survey of 131 Australian executives released by GE Australia found that 70 percent of businesses have initiatives in place to reduce greenhouse emissions.

However, less than one-third of those surveyed said they had modeled the effects of a carbon price on their companies' operations, while 21 percent said their enterprises had a distinct carbon reduction strategy for the company's entire supply chain.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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