Pumping up emissions

Australia’s gas and coal industries are contributing about 15 per cent of all national emissions, and overall emissions are on the rise. The disturbing upward trend in emissions from gas and coal extraction is revealed in the federal government’s National Inventory Report 2017 and the December 2018 National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Quarterly Update that were only recently released.

The data has been analysed by The Australia Institute which notes the recent sharp increases in stationary and fugitive emissions arise predominantly from the boom in extraction of both conventional natural gas and coal seam gas, and the processing of the gas to LNG for export.

TAI energy expert Dr Hugh Saddler says Australia’s total emissions increased by 1.0 per cent between 2016-17 and 2017-18 and that emissions are likely to increase by a further 0.3 per cent between 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Among the TAI’s key findings: from 2005, emissions from transport have increased by 23 per cent and mining has driven worrying increases in non-electricity stationary energy emissions of 30 per cent and fugitive energy by 55 per cent. 

However industrial processes, agriculture and waste have all decreased slightly (around 6 per cent), and electricity has decreased by about 10 per cent from 2005, and 17 per cent from a peak in 2009.

In Queensland, diesel, gas and electricity used to extract and process coal and gas in total emitted over 18 million tonnes CO2-e in 2016-17, equating to 23 per cent of the state’s total emissions and 7 per cent of Australia’s total emissions for that year, according to the TAI’s National Energy Emissions Audit for the electricity sector.

Diesel consumption has risen nearly 50 per cent between 2011 and 2018 and is responsible for the increase in petroleum emissions. Consumption and emissions of petrol and LNG have been falling slowly and jet fuel has increased slightly. Most recently, diesel consumption fell in four successive months, from January to April this year. The last prolonged fall in diesel consumption in Australia occurred in 1991 and that was associated with an economic recession.

Dr Hugh Saddler commented that the Minister for Emissions Reductions Angus Taylor has begun his term by delivering two key reports that confirm Australia’s rising emissions.

“What the latest National Energy Emissions Audit confirms is that Australia’s emissions are rising, not falling. These findings fly completely in the face of Minister Taylor’s claims to the contrary,” he said.

“Emissions directly from the gas and coal industries in Australia made up about 15 per cent of all national emissions in 2017; given fossil fuel extraction has subsequently increased, it is hard to see how they wouldn’t be even higher now.”

He described the complete absence of a Government plan to curb transport emissions as “very troubling - emissions which have run rampant thanks to a 50 per cent increase in diesel fuel use since 2011.”

How are individual states faring?

Per capita emissions in Queensland and Western Australia, plus the Northern Territory are well above the national average, and Queensland pips all states with significantly higher total emissions. The other four states’ per capita emissions are well below the national average.

According to Green Energy Market’s monthly Renewable Energy Index, South Australia is on track to generating renewable energy equal to 73.5 per cent of its consumption by 2030, up from 53 per cent in 2018. The state needs another 1,300 MW of capacity to achieve the target of 100 per cent renewables.

South Australia boasts the highest proportion of rooftop solar at 8.7 per cent of total generation over 12 months.

Tasmania is nudging closer to generating 100 per cent renewables by 2022.

Victoria is already close to achieving its target of 40 per cent of Victorian power generation coming from renewables by 2025 and within striking distance of their 2030 target for 50 per cent renewables. The state requires about 2,000 MW more projects to reach its 50 per cent target and needs just two more renewable energy contracting rounds to those of 2018 to bridge the gap to its 2030 target.

The rest of the eastern seaboard is falling short, the Renewable Energy Index notes. For NSW to get up to speed it would need renewables growth of around 46 per cent of overall electricity consumption by 2030, not the 28 per cent projected under the current scenario. To bridge the gap NSW requires 5,000 MW more new renewable energy project commitments by 2030.

Queensland is also well short of its 50 per cent renewables target by 2030, the state is instead on track to deliver 29.2 per cent, and requires around another 4,500 MW of projects to stay on track.

On a brighter note, Queensland leads the nation in terms of total solar PV with households generating 3.1 TWh in the year to April 2019.

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