Australian Electricity Emissions Intensity Drops Since Carbon Price

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The Australian Minister for Climate Change has reported that the intensity of the country’s electricity generation emissions has fallen since the introduction of the carbon price in July.

Greg Combet, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, revealed that “in the first three months of the carbon price, electricity generated for the National Electricity Market emitted 0.85 tonnes of carbon pollution for each megawatt hour — a 7.6 per cent decline in emissions intensity compared to 2011-12.”

The data come from the Australian Energy Market Operator, who provided the chart below, outlining the emissions intensity for fourteen months over the the time the carbon price was introduced by Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Australian Energy Emissions Drops Since Carbon Price

Emission intensity refers to the average emission rate of a given pollutant from a given source; in this case, carbon from electricity generation.

“This means the amount of carbon pollution released into the atmosphere in the September quarter this year was 2.4 million tonnes lower than it would have been if emissions intensity had remained at the 2011-12 level of 0.92 tonnes per megawatt hour,” Combett added in a press release published Thursday.

Unsurprisingly, given the high-minded attitude my country’s politicians take towards their work, Combet could not pass up the opportunity to take a swipe at the opposition leader, Liberal Tony Abbott, saying that his “claims that the carbon price would not reduce greenhouse gas emissions are just as misleading as his wild claims that the carbon price would lead to unimaginable price increases and wreck the Australian economy.”

Glad to see those in power taking the high road on this.

Source: Renew Economy
Image Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

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8 thoughts on “Australian Electricity Emissions Intensity Drops Since Carbon Price

  • But the decline is before the carbon tax was introduced

    • They knew the carbon price was coming on the first of July and prepared for it in June. (Of course things other than the carbon price affect carbon intensity in Australia’s electricity sector. That’s why the line is wriggly.)

      • Ronald, I love your comments. 😀

        “…that’s why the line is wriggly.”

    • Actually a large coal plant in Victoria (Yallourn) shutdown due to a flooded mine. It was returned to service after the carbon tax started but the total amount of coal power sold in VIC didn’t rise. Victorian generators were the most affected because they are extremely dirty (1.4 kgCO2/kWh)

  • The effect is so quick I assume it reflects optimizing the existing generation – ie turning marginal natural gas on, marginal coal off. Presumably over time, the carbon cost changes investment decisions in favor of renewables, etc and the effect gets much greater?

    • Yes, the immediate effect is to favour gas over coal. But Australia’s gas capacity is also operating at below predicted capacity. This is because efficiency and point of use solar have considerably reduced grid demand. We’ve mothballed down 1.31 gigawatts of coal power since the carbon price was introduced, and switched another coal plant to seasonal load following. Point of use solar is now cheaper than grid electricity in Australia, so this trend will continue.

      • And I see the planned one gigawatt gas peaker Dalton plant in New South Wales has been put on hold due to a lack of demand. It think something similar will happen in the US with fossil gas plants put on hold and coal plants continuing to be shut down with or without a carbon price. The change may not come as hard or as fast as here due to different market conditions, but I suspect that the cost of solar will continue to decline and lower US labour costs will result in a solar boom roughly comparable to Australia.

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