Saturday, February 27, 2010

Australia's carbon intensity begins to fall

While electricity use increased, emissions from electricity generation fell due to a shift to gas-fired and renewable generators from black coal plants, as Ben Cubby, environmental reporter for the SMH, writes:

AUSTRALIA'S greenhouse gas emissions may be reaching a plateau, even though demand for electricity is rising inexorably, new data suggests.

A slight trend towards burning gas instead of coal in power stations means that carbon emissions are beginning to be ''decoupled'' from power generation and economic growth, a report by energy consultants pitt&sherry found.

It is a crucial first step if national emissions are going to be reduced by between 5 and 25 per cent by the year 2020.

The news came as the federal government released its first report measuring the individual emissions of the nation's biggest companies.

While this would appear to be positive news, Hugh Saddler, the economics and sustainability adviser who helped prepare the report says it's too early to see whether this trend will take. The Department of Climate Change expects it to:

"From 2013 to 2020 emissions from the stationary energy sector are projected to grow at an average annual rate 0.5 per cent per annum, compared to the historical growth rate of 2.3 per cent per annum,'' a spokeswoman said. ''This is predominantly due to the projected slowdown in growth in electricity emissions mainly due to the increase in renewable generation associated with the expanded Renewable Energy Target."

Fine aspirations, yet the Government only narrowly avoided another climate scheme disaster that was on track to happen from their lumping solar water in with renewable energy generation for government incentives. Luckily, Penny Wong called in Mr Fix-it.

The Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, asked Mr Combet to fix the problem a few weeks ago and after intensive talks with the industry he finalised the changes in the nick of time.

The energy provider AGL yesterday said more than $1 billion in investments was on hold because of problems with the renewable energy market. It then quickly issued a statement to say the government's changes meant the investment was likely to go ahead.

Steve Garner, the managing director of the wind turbine maker Keppel Prince Engineering, had been preparing to sack 150 workers within days. His factory had been idle for a month because energy companies had stopped ordering turbines. "Greg Combet called me this week," Mr Garner said yesterday. "He suggested I hang on, that he was working on something."

Roaring 40s this week said construction of its $400 million Musselroe Bay wind farm in Tasmania had stopped. But yesterday it said the changes meant the project might be viable again.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, promised he would help the project if he won the election.

And Pacific Hydro said it would restart $1 billion worth of investments.

Energy retailers will buy certificates from a large-scale market and a separate fixed-price market covering small-scale domestic technologies.

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