Friday, 24 May 2013

Coal-fired power drops despite heatwave
6 Apr 2013

The share of coal in eastern Australia's electricity generation network has continued to recede, along with carbon emissions, despite a March heatwave that lifted power demand for the first time in 16 months. The widespread and prolonged heat over the country's south-east early last month prompted the biggest peak in demand for the entire summer. It was enough to trigger a 0.01% annualised gain in electricity demand on the National Electricity Market Management Company for March, the first increase since November 2011, monthly research by consultants Pitt and Sherry shows.

Although coal-fired power plants raised output to meet the extra load on the peak day, March 12, their proportion of total generation eased another 0.2%age points to 74.6% for the month. In February, their share of the electricity market fell below 75% for the first time. Hydro, wind and solar edged higher to a record share of 12.6%, shows the Cedex report, while gas increased 0.1%age point to 12.8%. Carbon emissions intensity eased to 835kgs a MW, down from 837kgs in February. Carbon emissions for March for electricity from the NEM were down 10.1 million tonnes, at an annualised rate, since the start of the carbon tax in July.

Generator response
Hugh Saddler, principal consultant at Pitt and Sherry, said generators on the NEM-which supplies power to NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT-were able to absorb large shifts in demand on the peak day. Wind generation on March 12 varied between 3 to 5% of demand. The change, though, was "between one and two orders of magnitude" less than the shift in power demand over a similar period, Dr Saddler said. "The notion that it's very hard to deal with the intermittency of wind is just ridiculous", he said.

Some energy companies have warned that an overly rapid increase in renewable energy-particularly from wind farms-could undermine the reliability of power supplies given the variability of wind strengths.

US drop
The US is reporting a similar trend in falling emission from the energy sector-for different reasons. Energy-related CO₂ emissions in 2012 were the lowest in the United States since 1994, at 5.3 billion tonnes, the US Energy Information Administration reported on Friday. With the exception of 2010, emissions have declined every year since 2007. Coal is being displaced in electricity generation by less carbon-intensive natural gas in the wake of a rapid expansion of so-called unconventional gas production from shale. A mild northern winter also curbed demand for heating oil, the government said.

Transport emissions jump
While emissions from the energy sector are in retreat in Australia, the opposite is true in transport-a sector largely unaffected by the carbon tax. Transport data suggest car fuel consumption has increased by less than 1% over the six years from 2005 06 to 2011 12. Fuel consumption by light commercial vehicles, though, has risen 14% over the period.

Bulk diesel consumption has also jumped, rising 31%%, alone lifting carbon emissions by 10.1 million tonnes a year. Aviation fuel use has risen by 40%, adding an additional 5.6 million tonnes of CO₂ annually to the atmosphere, the Cedex report found. expansion of unconventional gas production. A mild winter also curbed demand for heating oil.