Most electricity in Australia comes from coal – 87% in NSW and 86% in Victoria – and this will continue well into the future, powering our homes, businesses and industries, as well as helping to build essential infrastructure. Energy supplies must remain affordable while new technologies enable us to use our abundant supply of coal as efficiently and cleanly as possible.
The rise of more efficient coal-fired power plants, as well as the ongoing development of new technologies, means CO2 emissions are continually being reduced and are up to 40% lower than those of older power plants.14 In fact, simply upgrading plants to use current ultra-supercritical coal burning technology could reduce global emissions by two gigatonnes each year. That’s the equivalent of all of India’s annual CO2 emissions.15
CCS technology, or carbon capture and storage, works by capturing the CO2 being released from power stations, compressing it and transporting it to a storage site. These sites are deep underground in geological formations where the CO2 can be safely and naturally stored, just as it was when it was previously below ground in the coal. This proven CCS technology, along with the integration of HELE (high efficiency, low emissions burning technology) in the world’s power stations, mean that they can now reduce their CO2 emissions by up to 90%. 16
ACA Low Emissions Technologies assessment based on publicly available information on world power plant efficiency levels, July, 2015.
International Energy Agency, Coal Industry Advisory Board, Submission to IEA Special Report on Energy & Climate, March 2015, page 3.
International Energy Agency, Technology Roadmap High-Efficiency, Low-Emissions Coal-Fired Power Generation, Paris, originally published in 2012, updated March 2013, p. 19.