The Senate has said that Australia should give up coal-generated electricity altogether, citing economic factors as the main drivers. The report called for an energy plan that would give coal-fired power stations plenty of notice before they closed.
The report is seen as something of a wake-up call for the Australian government and it’s somewhat at odds with Donald Trump’s recent, bizarre exhortation of “…beautiful, clean coal,” Australia, it seems, recognises that the energy market is changing and the country is on board with the transformation.
An orderly transition
Australia can’t just close all its coal power stations at once, as this would affect energy supply and disrupt the coal-mining communities. Most of Australia’s coal mines are at least 30 years old and some of the larger mines are already earmarked for closure.
Australia has some tough choices
Australia is well on track to meet its 2020 carbon target, but isn’t on track for its 2030 target, which looks to reduce 2005-level emissions by 26-28%. Australia is one of the nations that will need extra measures to meet this challenge.
A controversial move
There has been federal government support to help to create the jobs needed to ease the transition away from coal and a UN report says that coal subsidies should be phased out to make the transition faster.
It also seems that Pacific Islanders are asking Australia to shelve plans for the Adani Carmichael mine. As the costs of building renewable energy facilities are around the same as building new mines, there is no sensible reason to pursue coal.
The UN wants no more coal mines
The UN says that to meet international targets, coal-generated energy should be phased out, but there are more coal-fired power stations are being built around the world. 2017 alone saw an additional 273GW of coal-fired capacity come online, with another 570GW in the pipeline, mainly in China, India, Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan. Thankfully, China and India have cancelled around half of their coal-fired power station plans.
Can Australia change?
Although leaving coal behind will improve air quality and water availability, it can be politically difficult. Many governments that have tried to stop subsidies without looking at wider impacts have run into trouble.
However, Australia has a history of filling the vacuum left behind by older industries, so as long as everyone’s willing, we’ll adapt and survive once more.