Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Era of coal power passing

Saturday 21/11/2009 Page: 9

AUSTRALIA is turning away from coal. Just one of the power stations under construction around the country is set to be fuelled by coal, with investors instead turning to gas and wind to provide the electricity of the future. A new government survey finds that while burning coal has been the main way Australia has generated electricity for a century, just 6% of new generating capacity recently completed or under construction will burn coal. The survey, by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics, finds that nine potential coal projects are on the drawing board, but they are minor compared with the total of gas and wind-powered projects in the pipeline.

In the past year, the only projects to progress from drawing board to construction have been seven wind-power stations. In Victoria, no new brown coal capacity has been added since the Kennett government privatised the state's power stations in the mid-1990s. Only one plan is even on the drawing board: a 400 MW station to test HRL's lower emission technology to dry and gasify coal before burning it. In contrast, in the past year the state has added 294 MWs of wind energy at Portland and Waubra, near Ballarat, with a further 63 MWs under construction south of the Grampians.

The Bogong hydro station, opened yesterday, adds 140 MWs, while Origin Energy is building a 1000 MW gas plant at Mortlake. Across Australia, gas is now the source of most of the capacity being added to the network. Wind and coal-seam methane supply most of the rest, with just one coal power station under construction, at Collie in Western Australia. Nationally, some 30,000 MWs of future power projects are on the drawing board. Of those, 10,000 MWs are from wind - with more than a third of the turbines expected to be built in Victoria - along with 9500 MWs from gas and 3250 MWs from coal.