The New Coal Boom?

  • Date: 27/01/17
  • Graham Lloyd, The Australian

The new-generation, high-efficiency coal plants produce half the carbon dioxide emissions of existing ones, making them comparable with gas.

Image result for coal power plants in planning

The new-generation, high-efficiency coal plants produce half the carbon dioxide emissions of existing ones, making them comparable with gas.

When the power went out in South Australia in September, linking renewable energy to concerns about electricity reliability, it lit the fuse on something unthinkable only a short time before — a return of coal.

As governments grow frustrated by tight gas supplies because of new exports and moratoriums on exploration, the numbers are being done on a new generation of supercritical coal plants of the sort being built by the thousands overseas.

In what has become a pincer movement on renewables, Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has been hammering state governments to abolish parochial renewable energy targets and lift moratoriums on conventional and unconventional gas exploration. Mining Minister Matt Canavan has followed up with calls that Australia stick with coal.

By all reasonable projections, coal will remain the backbone of Australia’s, indeed the world’s, electricity supply for decades to come. With the debate framed, Malcolm Turnbull said Australia should be a world leader in demonstrating that carbon emissions can be lowered by replacing ageing electricity generators with new technologies to produce cleaner coal.

As the world’s largest coal exporter, it would be in Australia’s economic interest to do so.

Until now, few have publicly championed the construction of new-generation coal plants of the type being built to tackle pollution in China and to bring the first reliable supplies of electricity to many parts of South Asia and ­Africa.

New-generation coal plants are also being built in Germany and Japan as both battle to replace generation lost from nuclear.

And the number of projects could increase if US President Donald Trump delivers on his pledge to lift restrictions on US agencies funding new coal plants in other parts of the world.

Trump has highlighted gas and clean coal as the backbone of his energy policies, designed to reduce costs for manufacturing and break the US dependence on oil supplies from the Middle East.

The new-generation, high-efficiency coal plants produce half the carbon dioxide emissions of existing ones, making them comparable with gas.

If the emissions can be captured and stored, they are 90 per cent more efficient than the plants reaching the end of their productive life around the country. […]

The latest world outlook from the International Energy Agency has tipped annual Australian coal production to rise from 408 million tonnes two years ago to 467 million tonnes in 2040.

Slowing demand for coal in ­Europe and the US would be offset by increased demand in Asia and the developing world.

According to the IEA, this would fuel $104 billion worth of investment in coal supply in Australia to 2040, to cater to the expanding Asian demand.

The Minerals Council of Australia says there are more than 725 high-efficiency, low-emissions plants already in operation in East Asia alone.

A further 1100 plants are under construction or in the pipeline.

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