Climate change: Australia’s coal-fired power plants set to close by 2035 as renewable energy rolls out

The end of coal-fired power in Australia was essentially sealed this week when the country’s largest energy company and an entire state pledged to go “net-zero” by 2035.

AGL Energy announced on Thursday that it will shut down all of its coal-fired power plants, including the country’s biggest polluter, Victoria’s Loy Yang A station, a full decade ahead of scheduled closure in 2045.

The company’s announcement followed Queensland Prime Minister Anastacia Palaszczuk, who revealed on Wednesday that the Sunshine State will be using 80 percent renewable energy and will no longer be dependent on coal within 15 years.

However, questions have been raised as to whether the country’s electricity suppliers will be able to meet Australian household demand using only renewable energy and gas – the latter of which is currently being shipped overseas for massive profits.

The country’s aging power grid is already showing cracks as Australians are warned of expected shortages next winter when coal-fired power plants are shut down.

At least five coal and gas-fired power plants will be closed in Australia over the next decade (pictured: Loy Yang coal-fired power plant in Victoria)

At least five coal and gas-fired power plants will be closed in Australia over the next decade (pictured: Loy Yang coal-fired power plant in Victoria)

Coal power currently dominates Australia's energy mix, as shown in this week's National Electricity Market chart of power generation

Coal power currently dominates Australia’s energy mix, as shown in this week’s National Electricity Market chart of power generation

During last winter, the threat of widespread power outages forced Australia’s energy market operator to take control of powering generators for the first time.

The crisis was triggered by nearly 25 percent of coal-fired power plants being out of service due to maintenance and outages, periods of low wind and solar power, and rising gas and coal prices due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

These factors, combined with increased energy demand in winter, pushed the power grid to its limits.

AEMO temporarily suspended the spot market in NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria – the states involved in the National Electricity Market – and ordered additional power plants to feed electricity into the system.

The energy markets operator has forecast an energy shortage that would affect Australian households and businesses (stock image)

The energy markets operator has forecast an energy shortage that would affect Australian households and businesses (stock image)

Big players in Australia’s electricity market are scrambling to adapt to changing consumer demand for green electricity and the new Labor federal government’s tightened emission reduction targets.

Origin Australia will close its Eraring facility north of Sydney by 2025, with a large battery being developed on the site and expanding renewable energy and storage capacity to 4 gigawatts by 2030.

Already a leader in the residential solar market, Origin has purchased Yanco Solar Farm in the Riverina region of NSW as part of a push into large-scale renewable energy generation.

Big brother AGL had planned to spin off the coal-fired portion of its business and run it as two separate companies — the other a retail energy utility — but that plan was thwarted by billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes.

Queensland will phase out coal-fired power generation by 2035 - pictured are mining operations at Moorvale Mine in Queensland's Bowen Basin

Queensland will phase out coal-fired power generation by 2035 – pictured are mining operations at Moorvale Mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin

The rich lister and software mogul initially made a takeover bid for AGL, but when that failed, he became a major shareholder and campaigned against the demerger.

And it seems the climate activist won.

“This represents one of the most significant decarbonization initiatives in Australia,” AGL Chair Patricia McKenzie said of Thursday’s announcement.

Other sites set to close include Liddell and Bayswater in NSW, although these remain on schedule.

AGL plans to invest up to $20 billion in new renewable energy and energy storage assets by 2036.

In Queensland, Ms Palaszczuk said energy from renewable sources will account for 70 percent of Queensland’s electricity by 2032 and 80 percent by 2035, a significant increase from the state’s previous goal of 50 percent by 2030.

Billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes (pictured) failed in AGL's move to split coal-fired power plants and its electricity retail business into two separate companies

Billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes (pictured) failed in AGL’s move to split coal-fired power plants and its electricity retail business into two separate companies

Coal will be fully replaced by renewable energies such as wind, solar and pumped hydro by 2035, with the transition from publicly owned coal-fired power plants to “clean energy hubs” occurring from 2027.

“This plan is all about cheaper, cleaner and safer energy for Queenslanders,” Ms. Palaszczuk said.

“It’s about stimulating new investment in new minerals, batteries and manufacturing.

“Renewable energy is the cheapest form of new energy… This plan will make Queensland the world’s renewable energy capital.

The $62 billion plan includes a new pumped storage project believed to be one of the largest in the world, including a new hydroelectric dam in Pioneer Valley near Mackay that is expected to supply half of Queensland’s total energy.

Combined with another dam, Borumba, the two hydroelectric power plants would be larger than the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric power plant, Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.

But experts are concerned whether Queensland’s renewable energy plan will be enough to cover the loss of its coal-fired power plants – warning that the proposed pumped-hydro plants have just 24 hours of storage, compared with seven days for Snowy 2.0.

Solar panels are pictured in Townsville, Queensland. The Sunshine State will add eight times its current renewable capacity in a new 10-year energy plan

Solar panels are pictured in Townsville, Queensland. The Sunshine State will add eight times its current renewable capacity in a new 10-year energy plan

The director of the Grattan Institute’s energy program, Tony Wood, welcomed Queensland’s push towards renewable energy but warned the plan could fall short.

“It’s not just how much electricity they’re producing right away, it’s how long they can run,” he told AFR.

“The two pumped storage projects in Queensland will only have 24 hours of storage. That will not be enough, especially since Snowy 2.0 can run at full speed for seven days.”

Dylan McConnell, of the University of Melbourne’s Climate and Energy College, told the AFR it was not a “like-for-like” swap.

“Not alone, but in combination with the sun, wind and other resources, you get close. But you have to think of the whole system working together,” he said.

Australians have already been warned to expect power shortages from mid-2023 as coal and gas-fired power plants are taken off the national grid.

Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the state government's energy and jobs plan during her

Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the state government’s energy and jobs plan during her “state address” on Wednesday

Massive investments in power generation, storage and transmission will be required over the next decade to ensure that homes and businesses are not impacted by plant closures.

The Australian energy market operator forecast significant problems in the interconnected electricity market of NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia in its latest report, published last month.

“Gaps in forecast reliability have emerged in the NEM (National Electricity Market) regions due to significant closures of coal and gas plants and insufficient commitments for new generation capacity needed to offset increased electricity demand,” said AEMO Managing Director Daniel Westerman .

He pointed to Australia’s first cluster of shutdowns of coal-fired power plants that will take place over the next decade – a total of 8.3 gigawatts, which is about 14 percent of the total capacity of the national electricity market.

‘Without further investment, this will reduce power generation and challenge the transmission grid’s ability to meet reliability standards and power system safety requirements.’

The report projected reliability gaps in South Australia in 2023-24 and Victoria by 2024-25 against the so-called “interim reliability measure” and in NSW by 2025-26 against the “reliability standard”.

By 2031-32, all states are projected to have gaps in the national electricity market.

There are “supply risks” across eastern Australia for the coming summer, according to AEMO.

ENERGY PROJECTS PLANNED FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS

Energy Australia’s 320 MW Tallawarra B project

750MW Kurri Kurri by Snowy Hydro

Genex Power’s 250 MW Kidston pumped storage project

Snowy Hydro’s 2GW Snowy 2.0 project

1 GW of wind power and nearly 1.5 GW of utility-scale solar power

The energy market operator warns that more renewable projects are needed to make up the deficit (pictured: the $30 billion Sun Cable project in NT).

The energy market operator warns that more renewable projects are needed to make up the deficit (pictured: the $30 billion Sun Cable project in NT).

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11261425/Climate-change-Australias-coal-fired-power-plants-close-2035-renewables-brought-in.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Climate change: Australia’s coal-fired power plants set to close by 2035 as renewable energy rolls out

Bradford Betz

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