News | 28th Mar, 2012

No emission limit on new coal plants

Wednesday, 28 March 2012
Tom Arup, The Age

The Baillieu government has dropped an election commitment to bring in limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new coal-fired power plants.

The decision by Energy Minister Michael O'Brien came just hours after the government announced it would shed the state's goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by the end of the decade.

It also came as the state government released a report on future impacts of climate change in Victoria, finding average temperatures could increase by 1 to 4.2 degrees by 2070 relative to 1990.

The new coal power standards – proposed by the previous Labor government and supported by the Coalition – would have capped emissions from new coal-fired power plants at 0.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide for every megawatt hour of electricity generated. They would also have required new plants to be ready to install clean coal technology if it became viable.

The federal government dumped similar national standards in December, saying the introduction of its carbon tax had made them redundant.

Mr O'Brien pointed to the Commonwealth's decision as a reason not to go ahead with the Victorian standards.
''The Commonwealth is not proceeding with such a restriction, nor do such restrictions apply to new coal-fired power stations in New South Wales or Queensland,'' he said.

''The combination of Commonwealth policies and market conditions have the practical effect that no new coal-fired power stations will be economically viable unless they are based on modern technology with significantly lower emissions.''

Labor's energy spokeswoman Lily D'Ambrosio said the decision showed

''this government clearly doesn't care about the environment or clean energy jobs''.

Energy Supply Association of Australia chief executive Matthew Warren backed the decision, saying it was ''sensible and unremarkable'' with a national carbon price in place.

But Environment Victoria's Mark Wakeham said

''polluters are welcome in Ted Baillieu's Victoria while the government is going out of its way to make it harder to build clean energy projects''.

The decision came as Victorian Climate Change Minister Ryan Smith said he would review the relevancy of other state climate programs in light of the national carbon tax.

''I would say certainly a number of programs are up for review, as the federal minister (Greg Combet) has asked us to review them as we are going to be talking about them in a few weeks' time,'' Mr Smith said.

Yesterday, he released an independent review of Victoria's Climate Change Act that recommends repealing the state's 20 per cent emissions target – which the state government has agreed to – because it would have no extra environmental benefit and would only lighten the load for other states in meeting a national 5 per cent emissions target.

The review also says that if the federal carbon pricing scheme is substantially amended or removed – as proposed by the federal opposition under Tony Abbott – then the merits of a state-based target should again be reviewed.

A separate report on Victorian climate change data was also released, finding the state's emissions have risen 0.9 per cent, or 1.1 million tonnes, between 2000 and 2009. Electricity generation produces 53 per cent of Victoria's total emissions.

The report also found that climate change may result in a substantial increase in the number of high-fire-danger days and might increase sea levels from 0.5 to 1.1 meters by 2100 across the state.

Climate change may also increase the number of days above 35 degrees in Victoria from nine in 1990 to between 15 and 26 in 2070. The extent and frequency of drought in Victoria may more than double by 2050, the report says.