*Pic: A Gas Power Plant pic - Kirishi SDPS
Australia’s thermal coal energy system is antiquated and polluting, and Gas generation is only a marginal improvement. So if were are serious about reaching a zero emission target by 2050 then Gas fuelled power stations are not the answer.
The Climate Council of Australia has just released a report into the financial and environmental costs of investing into gas. Here in brief are their findings.
1 – Australia’s electricity system is ageing, inefficient and polluting.
2 - Gas is not sufficiently less polluting than coal to garner any climate benefit.
3 - Greater reliance on gas will drive higher power prices.
4 - Investment in new gas plants is financially risky.
5 - Significant development of new gas plants is unfeasible without a massive expansion of unconventional gas, including thousands of new unconventional gas wells.
6 - Renewable energy can provide a secure, affordable alternative to new fossil fuels.
Are we serious about addressing climate change in this country?
2016 was the hottest year on record globally for the third year in a row. The record global warmth of 2016 is part of a long-term trend. All of the world’s 10 warmest years have occurred since 1998.
Climate change (fuelled by the burning of coal, oil and gas) is already influencing extreme weather events across Australia. The impacts of extreme weather events are likely to worsen unless global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced rapidly. Australia is the 16th largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, larger than 180 other countries.
Australia along with another 195 nations (136 ratified) has agreed to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C, which means our electricity system needs to reach zero emissions before 2050.
Gas power generates greenhouse gas emissions at the power plant and along the gas supply chain. Greater reliance on gas for power generation is inconsistent with commitments to act on climate change.
As you can see above, the trend on our current C02 output scenario looks diabolical.
Gas and Methane
Methane (CH4), the main component of natural gas, can be directly released to the atmosphere at each stage of gas production and transport either intentionally flaring or venting, equipment purging, incomplete combustion or unintentional failures.
Methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas, which later oxidises in the atmosphere after 10-12 years to form carbon dioxide. The global warming potential of methane is 86 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe.
Using gas for power generation releases both carbon dioxide and methane emissions.
Coal Seam Gas activity in Queensland – CCOA
The economics of gas for energy don’t stack up, whilst Liquid Natural Gas Exports are pushing up the price of available Gas in Australia.
The escalating diversion of gas reserves to meet LNG export contracts has already resulted in higher prices for gas used in Australia. The linkage to international oil prices, has pushed Australian wholesale gas prices up dramatically and increased volatility, which in turn increases gas power prices
International LNG contracts have led to some companies selling gas supplies overseas rather than using the gas for local power generation. This has led to the mothballing of gas power plants such as Pelican Point in South Australia and Swanbank E gas plant in Queensland.
With Australian gas now mostly exported as LNG, domestic gas prices are inextricably linked to world market prices for oil.
Reliance on gas power is also driving extreme price spikes and volatility due to lack of competition among gas power companies, particularly in South Australia and Queensland. For example, gas power companies played a key role in driving price spikes in South Australia by using their bidding power to push up the price of electricity at opportune times.
Increasing the gas supply is unlikely to make domestic gas plants offer more competitive power prices given high gas prices due to LNG exports.
Cost Effective, Zero Emissions Power System Can Be Achieved Without Gas
The most economic approach to transition away from fossil fuels is to dramatically improve energy efficiency, introduce demand management markets and to move directly to renewable supply, with energy storage, demand management and smart grids.
Existing gas can be considered as a short-term, expensive source of power while renewable energy and storage technologies are scaled up. However, greater reliance on gas power is not an option, from both an economic and climate standpoint.
*Ted Mead is a climate change believer, and doesn’t understand the irrational perspectives of the deniers. Ted understands that the rapid installation of renewable energy infrastructure across the entire globe is the only hope for a stabilization of the planet’s climate and its precious biodiversity.