Monday, July 20, 2009

Victoria proving the dirtiest state

Adam Morton

The Age, July 21, 2009

VICTORIA is the least climate-friendly state — home to three of Australia's four dirtiest power stations and none of the 12 biggest renewable energy plants.

An analysis by the Climate Group, an international think-tank, found less than 2 per cent of electricity generated in Victoria last year was from clean sources. Brown coal accounted for 94 per cent of electricity, with gas making up the other 4 per cent.

Victoria's largest renewable energy generator was not a purpose-built power station, but the Maryvale pulp and paper mill, which produces energy on site and feeds a small amount into the grid.

It was ranked the 13th-biggest renewable power generator in the eastern states, generating 166,000 megawatt hours, or just 0.003 per cent of the state's total electricity.

Climate Group Australia director Rupert Posner said the analysis was a wake-up call.

"What's clear is we need to rapidly scale up renewable energy," he said. "It is far too small a part of the energy mix."

The analysis found Victoria lagged behind other eastern states in renewable energy generation. Clean power sources make up 13 per cent of the electricity mix in South Australia, 6 per cent in NSW and 3 per cent in Queensland.

Mr Posner said there was not enough renewable energy in the country. "A large chunk of our renewable energy to date has come from large-scale hydro projects," he said.

The analysis comes as the Federal Government tries to push through the Senate its renewable energy target, requiring 20 per cent of electricity to come from clean sources by 2020. The target is supported by the Liberal Party, but stalled after the Government made an industry compensation package contingent on its controversial emissions trading scheme also being passed.

Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham said more renewable energy projects were being developed, but the analysis showed the state was on an unsustainable path. He said Victoria's main problem was its continued support of brown coal. Its increased use led to emissions from electricity rising 1 per cent last year.

The Loy Yang A, Hazelwood and Yallourn W power stations, all in the Latrobe Valley, were found to be among the highest-emitting plants in the country.

"It's very easy in the climate change debate to point the finger at different countries around the world … but when we've got some of the largest polluting power stations supplying the majority of our electricity, the onus is on us to take action very quickly," Mr Wakeham said.

Victoria can expect an influx of wind power. It has just 427 megawatts of wind power, but 1558 megawatts more has been approved with 2424 megawatts at various stages of planning.

A large solar plant near Mildura and a hydro plant at Bogong are also in development.

Government spokeswoman Emma Tyner said the state renewable energy target had attracted $2 billion in investment and would create more than 2000 jobs.

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