Origin Energy’s decision is an unprecedented step for Australia, according to energy experts. The country is the second largest exporter of coal after Indonesia, especially to China. All energy producers who use coal are currently suffering from the sharp drop in energy prices from solar and wind energy.
Coal has the advantage that it can also be used as a heat source for power plants in times when there is no wind and sun. To solve this problem, Origin Energy will soon deploy a large 700 MW battery, which can use the electricity saved during peak hours. Added to this is a similar battery, co-financed by the New South Wales Government. The largest coal-fired power plant provides 2,880 MW of power.
After the Paris climate agreement was reached, Origin Energy decided to end the combustion of coal, one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions. The group, which posted 18% profit growth over the six months on Wednesday, thanks mainly to LNG production, has now decided to stop using coal as a fuel earlier, in 2025.
“The reality is that coal-fired power plants are under increasing and unsustainable pressure from cleaner, cheaper generation, including solar, wind and battery power,” said Frank Calabria, CEO of Origin Energy.
Origin is working on new gas-fired power plants, hydroelectric power plants, and building additional batteries. These would be “more than enough to make up for the move away from coal”.
China: More coal
The decision comes at a time when coal-fired power plants are shutting down in the Netherlands and Europe. But China says it is helping its coal-fired power plants, which provide two-thirds of the country’s energy supply, to operate at full capacity. Beijing says this week it will prevent the development of power shortages. In the past year, parts of the Chinese economy have stalled due to a lack of energy.
The Chinese government supports additional coal mines to prevent energy shortages.
Ⓒ ANP / HH
According to environmental groups, this directly jeopardizes China’s climate goals. The world’s second largest economy previously reported that greenhouse gas emissions should peak by 2030. By 2060, it could be completely CO2 neutral thanks to cleaner energy sources.
China is responsible for a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and emits three times that of the European Union.
Now that natural gas is so expensive as a fuel for power plants, coal is once again very popular in China. This also increases coal mining. Coal-fired power plants were granted a license this week to produce as much electricity as possible.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said last month that emissions cuts should not come at the expense of economic growth and the certainty that China has enough capacity.
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