May 25, 2012

Old energy: the renaissance of fossil fuels under the carbon tax

The fossil fuel sector isn't hiding from a carbon tax. In fact, it's planning a revival. Renewable energy is undermined by coal-powered operators finding ways to reduce emissions and increase efficiency, writes Philipp Rosskopf.

The fossil fuel sector isn’t hiding from a carbon tax. In fact, it’s planning a revival.

In July 2011, when plans to introduce the carbon price were announced, Clean Energy Council director of strategy Kane Thornton congratulated the government and said the new policy would “turbo-charge the clean energy sector”.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

14 thoughts on “Old energy: the renaissance of fossil fuels under the carbon tax

  1. Jonathan Prendergast

    While it is often doubted that wind and solar can provide base-load power, the opposite is true. The major challenge for a 100% renewable grid is the supply of electricity at peak times. Sure, we have great hydro facilities in the Snowy Mountains, and they are already used to help during peak times, but there is still the requirement for a huge capacity of gas fired peaking plants around Australia.

    To properly consider trigeneration schemes like the City of Sydney’s, you have to consider the whole picture. It is more than a gas fired electricity generation plant. The capture and use of waste heat increases the energy efficiency greatly, and reduces peak demand on the hottest days due to displacement of electric chillers.

    In the long term, once buildings are connected to district heating and cooling systems via underground pipework, they can be powered by thermal storage. Such storage can use renewable energy to charge up during low electricity demand periods in the grid, then supply heating and/or cooling to buildings when electricity demand is greater than renewable energy supply. For example, it could charge overnight, and supply in the afternoon. Such storage does not compete with renewable energy, but complements it. It enables renewable energy.

  2. Morris Nigel

    Dr Phil Gurney told Crikey: “Solar panels, for example, need an operation time from 17 to 20 years to become carbon-neutral and financially profitable.”

    This is a typical example of the coal industry being either staggeringly ignorant, lying or both.

    There are a myriad of studies that show the entire carbon cradle to grave footprint of a solar panel is about 2 years and decreasing.

    Financial profitability varies on the application but can be as low as a few years due to the rapidly declining costs and escalating price of, wait for it…….. coal fired energy.

    Their distortion of the truth and prejudice is so staggeringly obvious it’s hilarious and is helping renewable’s enormously because we can simply stick to facts and truth.

  3. Geoff Russell

    Ok, I give up. Why exactly did the graphic leave out mention of the life cycle emissions of nuclear power? Perhaps they weren’t calculated? No, I checked, the report calculated the average of 14 studies as 28 tonnes CO2eq/GWh.

  4. Clytie

    Geoff, that’s probably because we don’t want another Chernobyl or Tokyo.

    BTW, it’s a bit discouraging to reach this page and see a large ad for fossil fuel (“natural” gas). 🙁

  5. Stephen

    Never forget, the main purpose of carbon pricing is business as usual.

  6. Mark Duffett

    I’d like an answer to Geoff Russell’s question.

  7. Microseris

    If we are looking at the economics of the generation options, remediation of the mines is never factored into the costs of coal. Operators will simply walk away leaving a massive hole in the ground.

    In Feb 2011, in the Latrobe Valley (Vic) the Morwell freeway nearly slid into the Hazelwood mine when the north batter slipped causing the main drain to fail. The cause was due to a cost cutting exercise by the foreign owned mine operator, who reduced pumping of the underlying aquifer. Who paid for repairs to the road and drain – the Vic Govt. Who is going to bear the costs of maintaining this mine into the foreseeable future? Without maintenance, the entire town of Morwell will subside into the mine.

    This same story is happening/will happen in areas where coal deposits are mined in eastern Australia.

  8. Hamis Hill

    Key Words: Carbon market, Carbon Credits, Money, employment, money, employment.
    Suggestion: Try using these key words in the debate.
    Imperative: Do not be a carbon cretin.

  9. Geoff Russell

    Clytie: Japans addition of red meat to her traditional diet increased her bowel cancer incidence by about 90,000 new bowel cancers EVERY SINGLE YEAR.


    The toll from Fukushima radiation sits at zero. If everybody went back to their homes tomorrow, how many cancers would there be from radiation?

  10. mick j

    Any improvement is a good improvement. If every household in this country had 20 solar panels on its roof then we would have at least halved the coal burned domestically. Then add in wind turbines which would be tremendous near the high wind coastal regions and we are on the way to clean power.

    It is sad that the dinosaurs of industry push their own barrows and have so little care and respect for the nation they live in that they choose instead to continue what is unsustainable so that they can make their fist full of dollars. These people are not too dissimilar in their utterings from the cigarette industry which claimed “no proof” for decades as the reason to continue killing people. In like fashion the asbestos industry which knew about the effects of asbestos since the early 1950s (US studies conclusive) but continued on anyway with its business strategy at the expense of many thousands of lives in this country.

    Coal in its current form is dead but don’t expect those with their bank accounts linked to coal to stop. With the support of its business owned and operated political party (the Liberal Party) big business will continue to play the game for some time yet. Such is the nature of these Australians.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details