Gas not much greener than coal

New research revealed gas-fired power generation will not be cheaper than coal and its emissions will be only slightly lower than coal.

The research by the Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland revealed changing to gas-fired power generation will not drastically lessen carbon dioxide emissions, The Observer reported.

Energy economics researcher Professor John Foster said modelling showed a switch to gas-fired generation would mean wholesale prices would be steeper with a renewable energy scheme.

"The findings contradict a widely-held view that renewable energy is too expensive compared to fossil fuels, and too unreliable to be a major component of Australia's future energy generation by 2035," he said.

"There is no justification for the claim that a high proportion of energy sourced from renewables will drive up wholesale costs, in comparison to a power system heavily dependent on coal seam gas," Professor Foster said.

He said it is important to switch to lower-emissions gas from coal for Australia’s power market to remain tough but he warned coal seam gas was not a quick fix solution.

“A mix of large-scale renewable energy generation, including solar and wind, together with consumer action to use power more efficiently, will deliver the most resilient Australian power market by 2035,” he said.

“While our findings might indicate that pursuing a gas-centric scenario will lead to increased prices and reduced carbon emissions, they may not be sufficient to change the dominant industry view which is intent on replacing coal with gas,” Foster said.

The Australian government is investing heavily in establishing coal seam gas resources to deliver to prospective export markets and change domestic power generation.

Western Australian premier Colin Barnett is asking for a national energy policy that restricts natural gas exports so supplies will remain cheap and dependable in the domestic market.

Barnett pointed out that WA has had a policy of storing 15 per cent of output from the large North West Shelft LNG project in the Pilbara, whereas other states did not have such condition.

“I think that it is a serious flaw in our energy policy,” he said.

“Any other developed country in the world will be ensuring that that clean, relatively clean energy, is preserved – or some part of it preserved – for the national economy.”

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