The share of coal in eastern Australia's electricity generation network has fallen below 75 per cent for the first time, helping to drag down carbon emissions.
Black and brown coal-fired power stations in the National Electricity Market supplied 74.8 per cent of the grid's power in February, while the share of renewable sources, such as hydro, wind and solar, rose to a record 12.5 per cent, according to monthly research by consultant Pitt & Sherry. Gas supplied 12.7 per cent.
The shift away from coal comes as overall demand for power continued to drop in the market, which takes in the bulk of the populations of NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT, the consultancy's Cedex report states. In combination, weaker demand and cleaner energy sources means greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector are sinking, principal consultant at Pitt & Sherry Hugh Saddler said. ''You're transitioning to a lower level [of emissions].''
Carbon emissions from the national market generators have fallen at an annualised rate of 5.5 million tonnes, or 3.5 per cent, since the introduction of the carbon tax last July, Dr Saddler said.
The Coalition has vowed to scrap the carbon price if it wins office in September.
At their peak share of the market at the end of 2008, coal-fired power plants accounted for 84.1 per cent of total electricity, Dr Saddler said. In February alone, the drop was about half a percentage point.
Among the major states, NSW output from coal-fired plants was little changed on January, but it fell at Queensland's Kogan Creek, Stanwell and Tarong plants. Output from Victoria's brown coal-fired plants – Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B, Yallourn W and Hazelwood – ''was lower than in February 2012, meaning that annualised output, and hence emissions, fell for the seventh month in a row'', the report said.