WA government sets 80 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 for state operations
The closure of the West Australian government’s coal-fired power stations will do the bulk of the lifting for its new target to reduce emissions from state assets by 80 per cent, or 5.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, in 2030.
About 70 per cent of the reduction target will be achieved by closing the last state-run coal power station in 2029.
WA Premier Mark McGowan has announced an 80 per cent reduction of carbon emissions by state assets by 2030.Credit:Peter de Kruijff
The government also looks set to end its reliance on the only other source of coal power in the state, privately run Bluewaters Power Station, which opened in 2009.
Synergy and Water Corporation are the two of the biggest clients for Bluewaters, alongside the Boddington Gold Mine, with both unlikely to extend contracts with the company beyond their current terms which expire in 2025.
Energy Minister Bill Johnston has said Synergy would not extend its contract, while Water Minister Dave Kelly said on Thursday the Water Corporation also saw an extension as unlikely.
An already announced $3.8 billion will be used to help transition the state’s assets to more renewable public and private sources.
Premier Mark McGowan said keeping coal going beyond 2029 would become a major cost for the government and taxpayers.
“That’ll cost somewhere between $700 million to $1 billion dollars net to the state or users, so each and every family will have a $1200 addition to their bill if we keep coal-fired generation by the state,” he said.
The Water Corporation is the second-biggest public energy user in the state after Synergy and uses coal-fired power as part of its energy mix to run its two saltwater desalination plants, which account for 45 per cent of Perth’s water.
Kelly said the two plants as well as a third, to be built by 2030 in Alkimos, would be completely powered by renewable energy at the end of the decade by a 400-megawatt wind farm.
The government is looking to harness the energy from a privately built wind farm proposals in regions like the South West or Wheatbelt.
A mock-up of the new Alkimos Seawater Desalination Plant to be built in Perth’s north by 2030.Credit:Water Corporation
The new desalination plant will add another 100 gigalitres of capacity to the existing 145 gigalitres and help take pressure off depleting groundwater resources like the Gnangara Mound if the population of Perth continues to grow.
Eighty per cent reduction target to come from across all government departments
All WA government agencies will need to reduce their emissions by 80 per cent from 2020 figures come 2030, but it is not clear whether there will be legislated targets.
While other state governments have chosen 2005 as a base year, WA Environment Minister Reece Whitby says 2020 was a higher target to improve upon.
“Our emissions since 2005 have actually fallen … unlike the state’s emissions generally,” he said.
“We’ve set a harder, higher hurdle for ourselves as a government.
“A government announcement today of 80 per cent will be I think, surprising to some people. It will be welcomed by many and it will be a clear indication to the economy generally and all sectors that they can lift their ambitions as well.”
While the government contributes about 8 per cent of the state’s emissions, it is working with several sectors – including the resources and agricultural industries – to come up with ways of reducing their emissions with interim targets by 2030 and net-zero by 2050.
The results of those conversations will be released in 2023.
“We have a process underway that’s been going on for six months and has a way to go yet called the sectoral emissions reduction strategy,” Whitby said.
“We want to engage with the industry right across WA … we want to know if there are hurdles in their way … things that the government can make it easier for industry sectors to reduce their emissions.”
The state’s overall annual emissions reached a peak of 90.8 million tonnes in 2019, according to federal government data released this month, while a 9.1 million-tonne reduction was made from that year to 2020.
About 2.7 million tonnes of this reduction came from Chevron’s much maligned carbon injection project, when it was working.
A lot of the rest was from land-use changes which are supposed to reduce carbon creation, such as the burning of savannah lands in northern parts of Australia to prevent instances of bigger burns that create more pollution.
Five of the state’s biggest emitters – including gas giants like Woodside – are currently under review by the independent Environmental Protection Authority about what they can do to reduce emissions.
But new proposals including Woodside’s Scarborough gas project off the Kimberley coast and Perdaman’s Urea Plant in the Pilbara would offset the government’s own public emissions inroads by putting up a further 6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air.
McGowan said gas produced less emissions than coal and WA exporting the commodity meant other countries burned less coal.
“In net terms it actually means there’s less emissions going into the atmosphere, but I understand the issue. It is complex,” he said.
“And the unfortunate reality is, and if any of you been to Japan, Korea or China or India or any of these places, they’re going to burn something and so if we can get them on the pathway to lower emissions using gas we’re actually making an important contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
However, a CSIRO report commissioned but then buried by Woodside – only made publicly available this year after it was obtained by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald – undermined claims by the company that gas produced from Scarborough would reduce global emissions.
It found increasing Australian gas supply could prolong coal, displace renewables and increase emissions in Asia if there was not a global carbon price – which there is not.
McGowan said he had not read the report and brought up eastern states mining coal rather as something that should be scrutinised over WA gas.
But some of WA’s gas customers, like Japan, are making plans to halve its use of liquid natural gas in power generation by 2030, although other trading partners such as China and Korea are likely to see increased demand.
Conservation Council of WA executive director Maggie Wood said the reduction target by the state government was a welcome development but carbon pollution needed to be put under control in WA to address an emissions crisis.
“The science tells us that a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is urgently needed to keep climate impacts in check,” she said.
“However, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has also said that there can be no new fossil fuel proposals or expansion, which does not sit well with the state government’s support of new gas plants, including the highly controversial Woodside Scarborough development.”
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