EnergyWestern Australia's greenhouse gas emissions puts Australia’s net zero targets off track

Western Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions puts Australia’s net zero targets off track

If Australia is to meet its legally mandated carbon reduction targets, other states will need to achieve greater reductions than Western Australia, whose greenhouse gas emissions are increasing with little indication that the major power infrastructure can decarbonize quickly.

According to modelling data Western Australia had submitted to the state government late last year, the state is expected to achieve 91.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2024, which is around 20% more than 2005 levels.

Preliminary official data indicates that Australia’s emissions in the year ending in December 2023 totalled 459 million tonnes of CO2-e. That amount was still well short of the 43% reduction objective set by law, and it was about 26% below 2005 levels.

Western states don’t have their own 2030 goals, in contrast to other states. Once it sees what the federal government decides on, the Labor-led Cook administration is thinking of passing legislation to achieve its 2035 objective.

According to one scenario presented in the modelling by Climateworks and CSIRO, based on current policies, the primary power grid providing the majority of Western Australia’s population will reduce emissions from 2005 levels by 2% by 2030 and 20% by 2035. The South West Interconnected System’s “significant emissions reductions” would have to get over “key barriers,” like a shortage of transmission capacity.

The only Greens member of the state parliament, Brad Pettitt, claimed that although Western Australia’s government-owned grid provided a way to speed up adoption that other governments, including Victoria, did not, WA still lagged behind other places. The WA government is unlikely to approve any 2035 goals before 2026, at the latest.

Pettitt stated, “We have 10% of Australia’s population but 17% of emissions.” “We are an anomaly.”The fact that we don’t have a solid plan to take them down this decade is much more concerning. There is absolutely nothing planned.

Western Power, a state-owned company, requires up to five years to approve the connection of new wind and solar farms to the power grid. Developers must pay $100,000 for each megawatt of capacity, even if they do.

Even while other states and the federal government implement regulations to reduce pollution, Western Australia’s comparatively heavy reliance on the expanding mining and gas sector, including the downstream processing of raw materials, has led to an increase in carbon emissions.

The Northern Territory and Western Australia not linked to the national electricity market, which supplies the majority of the rest of the nation and allows states to import and export electricity amongst themselves.

In Western Australia, gas is a more important source of energy than it is elsewhere. At wholesale market, gas accounted for approximately 38% of Swiss electricity in the year ending in June of last year, which is more than coal (27%), wind (16%), and solar farms (less than 2%). In Western Australia, rooftop solar accounts for roughly 38% of all households and provides about 15.5% of total electricity.

According to a study Pettitt commissioned and carried out by independent analyst Fraser Maywood Renewable, the number of new energy projects in Western Australia that were either under development or just getting started has plateaued.

In the last 20 years, wind and solar farms in WA have installed 1.2 gigawatts of power. By 2042, Western Australia would need to add 50GW of new large-scale renewable energy, or 63 times as much solar and 16 times as much wind, according to the government’s modelling.

“It is quite evident that a swift and significant change in government policy is necessary to increase renewable energy on the scale that the government’s projections call for.”

According to the administration, there are “a large number of renewable energy projects in the pipeline,” but the South West Interconnected System project has slowed considerably.

“Significant challenges” mentioned by industry representatives surveyed for the report, including land and network access for state grid operations. However, “a widespread fear that voicing these concerns may harm prospects” was present among them.

In response to inquiries over the modelling, a government representative stated that the state acknowledged “the need to take urgent action to address climate change” and that its dedicated to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

“WA well positioned to play a critical role in the global energy transition as a renewable hydrogen and critical minerals exporter, even though our state’s path to net zero will unique given its economy supported by hard-to-abate industries,” the representative stated. “The government’s decision to phase out all coal-fired power plants controlled by the state by 2030 will be crucial to Western Australia’s decarbonization efforts.

According to him, the government had promised to spend more than $3.8 billion on energy storage and wind power. 40% less emissions would enter the main grid if investments made.

According to Pettitt, there was a “real danger” that the renewable energy sources would not advance as planned, forcing the state to commission additional gas-fired power plants.

Because of Western Australia’s excessive emissions, other states were already absorbing 20–30 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually. If WA consumed more gas, that load might increase even further.

According to Pettitt, “neither these investments nor their emissions are short term.”

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