MELBOURNE, Australia—The National Energy Market Operator (NEMA) says it is preparing to begin a process to phase out coal-fired electricity in Victoria, and will be removing coal-generated electricity from all Victoria’s transmission and distribution networks by the end of the decade.
NEMA issued a statement on Wednesday, saying it would “phase out coal and nuclear energy” from the electricity grid by 2030.
“We’re looking at a variety of options, including moving towards a fully renewable electricity market, moving towards an ‘all of the above’ approach where all generation is renewable, and moving towards using a carbon capture and storage (CCS) approach,” the NEMA said in a statement.
“Coal is not viable, it’s a very expensive way of generating electricity, and its emissions are very, very high.
We want to look at options to transition away from coal and other fossil fuels.”
The statement continued, saying NEMA was “working closely” with Victoria’s government to “accelerate the transition away to a completely renewable electricity system”.
The statement did not provide a timeframe for when the coal phase out would be completed, but said it was “pushing forward” with the transition.
The coal phase-out is set to begin in 2018, with the phase-outs set to last until 2026, and then again for 2035.
NEMA is not the only state looking at ways to phase in coal.
The Australian Energy Market Commission is also working on a carbon-neutral electricity supply plan, which includes a target to phase-in coal by 2025, followed by “all renewables by 2035.”
“We’ll be moving to a carbon neutral system as quickly as possible,” NEMC spokesperson David Anderson said.
“The transition to a fully carbon neutral energy system is achievable.”
He added that the aim was to have 100 percent renewable electricity by 2050.
NemC’s carbon-based electricity supply plans are part of a global plan, called the Climate and Climate Adaptation Plan 2020, that aims to reduce CO2 emissions to 70 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, and reduce CO 2 emissions by 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, with zero net negative emissions from 2050 onward.
Anderson said the NEMCs carbon-free electricity plan was also “aimed at supporting the transition to zero net CO 2 emission.”
“This will be achieved by transitioning to a zero net zero carbon electricity system, with a mix of renewable energy sources, and an all-of-the-above approach,” he said.
The NEME spokesperson said that the “climate-neutral power” plan would also support the transition from coal to renewable energy, but added that this would be “based on a combination of factors, including economics, climate, environmental protection, and community benefits.”
The transition to coal was a key point in the 2015 Victorian election, with Victorian Greens leader and former coal miner, Adam Bandt, announcing his party would scrap coal power plants.
“It’s time for Victoria to go completely electric,” he told reporters at the time.
“Our coal-free plan will see us achieve zero net emissions from coal by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.”
Victoria’s coal-dependent electricity network is largely reliant on coal-power plants for its electricity.
The State Government is currently seeking a $300 million subsidy to help it “build a new generation of energy efficiency, and low-carbon energy sources,” but the plan is also opposed by many environmentalists.
NEP spokesperson and climate change researcher Rob Hargreaves said the plan was “deeply flawed.”
“There are a lot of reasons why we’re going to see more and more coal shut down in the future, but the fact that the government is offering this subsidy is a big problem,” he explained.
“I don’t think it’s going to get us to zero zero net carbon emissions, but it’s still going to do a pretty bad job of reducing CO 2 and greenhouse gas emissions.”
The Victorian Government has also been criticised for not fully disclosing its plans for the transition of electricity, including the plans to transition from nuclear power to solar power, and also for not releasing details of the climate change targets it has set for the State.