27 Feb Can Australians face up to REAL carbon reductions? Part 1
This is the first of a three part blog which will look at a plan for real carbon reductions in Australia’s electricity generating system.
The blog will address
- where Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions come from, what our targets should be,
- how we can achieve them in the electricity sector using nuclear energy and
- where nuclear power plants could be sited in Australia
In today’s blog I’ll address our sectoral emissions and targets.
- Australia’s Sectoral Emissions
Attribution: Data taken from Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: June 2016Australia’s National Greenhouse Accounts, Department of Environment and Energy
I don’t think most people recognise the scale of the challenge required to decarbonise and many think it is limited to their domestic electricity use.
This pie chart hopefully clears that up. It shows in the darker green colour emissions from our Electricity Generating system which makes up about a third of our emissions.
Then in red we have the Stationary energy sector such as gas burning in industry or diesel in mining generators. This accounts for 18% of emissions.
Next in light green we have Transport. It’s good for 17%.
Finally we have the mix of fugitive emissions such as gas from mines and Agricultural emissions such as methane from animals or fuel use in tractors.
Some sectors are more easily decarbonised than others. Transport is difficult because we seem to be addicted to their use of private cars and increasingly fuel thirsty SUV’s and just love air travel.
Industrial processes such as cement and steel production are difficult to decarbonise because at present coal is used in steel and cement manufacture but this can be overcome.
Our love of red meat contributes to very large emissions from our agricultural sector and so one day without red meat saves a similar level of emissions to one day of 100% zero carbon electricity.
The electricity generating sector should be the easiest of all sectors to decarbonise. After all, the generators are fixed in place and don’t move around unlike cars and cattle. Additionally we actually know how to do it and the precedent has been set. France, Sweden, Switzerland who all have emissions down around 50 gr CO2/kWh or below.
Australia on the other hand has emissions 16 times this low level at around 800 gr CO2/kWh. To try to fix this we have played around with wind power for example. It’s been used in Australia for 31 years but still produces less than 6% of our electrical energy and is a massive consumer of non-renewable resources.
- Australia’s emissions trajectory
Attribution: From the The Garnaut Climate Change Review, Chapter 12, page 284 with the Australian Government’s recent claimed emissions totals overlain
Figure 12.1 from the Garnaut Climate Change Review shows a range of emissions trajectories that conform to various policies. To achieve our share of a maximum 2 degrees warming we need to be on the Conditional Offer (450) or lower. That means our electricity sector has to have emissions below 50 gr CO2/kWh by 2050 and all other sectors of our economy will have to achieve similar levels of decarbonisation.
By the current Government’s reckoning Australia’s emissions are tracking to meet our watered-down Direct-Action targets shown in the green line however a few important emissions are not accounted for and just a few examples are:
- The ongoing destruction of our industrial base is “off shoring” our emissions. Now that Holden, Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, Nissan and others have all left Australia we have effectively sent these emissions to Asia and Europe. We drive more cars than ever and because they’re getting bigger they produce more carbon emissions than ever.
- In Australia our production of cement, glass, aluminium and steel is falling but we use more of these goods than ever. These are four of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases and as with the motor vehicle industry we continue to send these emissions “off shore”. Likewise the local manufacture of white goods has long since ceased.
- Importantly, fugitive gas emissions are not being properly assessed in our Greenhouse gas accounting and our Department of Environment and Energy acknowledges that. At the levels of gas leakage reported in the USA, emissions from gas plants rival and even exceed those of coal plants.
With Australia’s extremely poor record in addressing emissions reductions across all the sectors just described, it’s vital and completely achievable to reduce those emissions coming from our electricity sector by 90% or more. This time is right to achieve this with a proven way to achieve deep emissions reduction.
This will be covered in my second blog.