War of words between charity and coal lobbies

Charity group Oxfam Australia has taken aim at the coal industry in a new report which suggests renewable energy is quicker and cheaper for bringing energy to the developing world than coal-fired power.

The report ‘Powering up against poverty’ accused Peabody Energy, the Minerals Council of Australia, Adani, and other coal mining interests of aggressively promoting coal as a solution for energy poverty, while going no further than PR campaigns in their own interests.

Oxfam also said that statistics given by the Institute of Public Affairs, that an increase in the supply of Australian coal to India would bring electricity to 82 million people, were rejected by Indian NGO the Vasudha Foundation which said the arguments did not stand up “even the most basic scrutiny”.

Report author Dr Simon Bradshaw said there were many examples of how renewable energy was already helping impoverished people to gain access to energy, bringing job creation and community development.

Bradshaw said the rapid rollout of solar home systems in Bangladesh had brought power to 10 per cent of homes, around 3.5 million households, and that the government sought to have electricity to all homes by 2021.

The report also suggested that the environmental damage done by coal to the atmosphere was linked to 670,000 premature deaths in China in 2012.

The Minerals Council of Australia returned fire yesterday, suggesting Oxfam should “stick to facts not ideology”.

MCA Coal executive director Greg Evans said renewable energy could play a role in the energy mix of the developing world in remote locations, but that the big leaps in economic development were underpinned by baseload energy generated from coal.

“Between 1990 and 2010, about 830 million people – the vast majority in developing countries – gained access to electricity generated by coal-fired plants,” he said.

“For every one person that gained energy access through wind or solar, 13 people gained access through coal.

“We would hope this is welcomed by OXFAM and the meaningful improvement it represents in the lives of many millions of the world’s most needy.”

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