Coal generated 54% of Australian power, renewables up to 24% in 2020

Tallawarra A power station
Photo courtesy EnergyAustralia

Australia’s power generation mix is still dominated by its legacy coal-fired assets, but natural gas and renewables are cutting deeply into that majority as coal is slowly faded out.

The Australian government released its annual Energy Statistics report Tuesday, showing that coal is the top resource accounting for 54 percent of the nation’s electricity mix in 2020. Renewables rose nearly 15 percent to generate almost a quarter of Australian electricity last year, while natural gas fueled 20 percent and was the most-used energy source for the manufacturing sector over the past two years.

Like many nations, Australia is embracing solar, wind and energy storage, while also maintaining a strong place currently for fossil-fired power.

“Balance is the key,” Australian Energy Minister Angus Taylor said in the government release Tuesday. “The energy system is changing at an unprecedented pace, which is why we need to get the energy balance right to ensure Australian households and businesses can continue to access the power they need to grow and prosper.”

Coal-fired power still holds the key to Australian power generation, but its lead is eroding. The Liddell coal-fired station will be closed by 2023, while Hong Kong-owned Australian utility EnergyAustralia plans to accelerate the retirement of its 1,400-MW Mont Piper coal-fired plant in New South Wales by 2040, three years ahead of the closure initially announced.

The government also has committed $180 million U.S. to a major new carbon capture, use and storage project. It will build carbon capture hubs and research ways to commercialize CCUS technologies and storage.

Resource adequacy, of course, is a concern, so the Australian government will build a 600-MW gas-fired power station in New South Wales to aid capacity after the Liddell facility is retired. (Pictured is the gas-fired combined cycle Tallawarra Power Station in New South Wales).

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Coal-fired power, natural gas and renewables all will be key topics of discussion in sessions at POWERGEN International when it happens live Jan. 26-28 in Dallas, Texas. Registration is now open and discounts are available for utilities.

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