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A future beyond coal

Closing coal power, and replacing it with renewable energy is one of the best things we can do to protect people and our planet. Right now, we have an opportunity to shape how this transformation will happen.

If we get it right, a future beyond coal will mean cleaner air, and healthier people. It will mean renewables powering our towns and cities, and good jobs in regional communities. It will be a future in which we've avoided devastating impacts of climate change — and instead protected people, water, food supplies and natural places. 

There’s a growing body of research into the risks of coal power, and why we need to replace it with cleaner options. Here’s what we know:

  • If we’re serious about acting on climate change, phasing out coal-fired power stations is one of the best things we can do. Right now, Australia’s 19 coal-fired power stations are our single largest contributor to the greenhouse gas emissionsX that cause climate change. In order to meet our international obligations to combat climate change, Australia needs to steeply decrease coal-based electricity generation.X  
  • Coal power is on its way out. Eleven of Australia’s coal-fired power stations have closed since 2012. The remaining 19 power stations are around 30 years old.They’re old, expensive to run and increasingly unreliable.X
  • Coal-fired power stations put our health at risk, exposing local communities to toxic chemical emissions and risks of health problems.X Sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, mercury, and small particulate matter have all been associated with coal-fired power stations.X
  • Renewables are here, and they’re cheaper to build than coal, right now. An energy transformation is well underway, with thousands of new career opportunities  from manufacturing, to construction, to installation, to maintenance and clean energy technology R&D. In all, Australia is on track to source more than one-third of its power from renewable energy within two years.X
  • Clean energy could be doing so much more, but we need to move quickly. Renewable energy could provide even more of our jobs and power supply if investors had greater certainty. If we want our share of clean energy to grow — and the number of jobs to grow with them  the industry will need clear policy settings from local, state and federal governments. 

As ageing coal power stations become more expensive to maintain and renewables become even cheaper to build, the transformation from coal-fired power stations to clean, renewable energy is underway — but currently, there’s no plan for how this shift will take place. 

Right now, we have a huge opportunity to shape the future. We can ensure the renewable sector develops in a way that empowers regional communities, ensures good pay and conditions for workers, and delivers clean energy for everyone. We can develop strong, thoughtful plans in and with the communities around coal-fired power stations, and provide certainty about when power stations will close. We can map paths to diversify local economies and create good job opportunities for people who have worked hard to supply our energy to date.

A future beyond coal power could benefit all of us, if we plan it right - and so these conversations need all of us taking part. The sooner we start making plans to support communities as our energy system transforms, the better off everyone will be.

Read more:

  1. National greenhouse gas data from AGEIS for most recent reporting year 2017. 

  2. For Climate's Sake: Coal Free by 2030. Climate Analytics, November 2019.
  3. Data from Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) 

  4. Suboptimal Supercritical Report, The Australia Institute, 23 January 2019.

  5. Unearthing Australia’s toxic coal ash legacy, Environmental Justice Australia, July 2019. 

  6. National Pollutant Inventory database.

  7. Green Energy Markets, via Clean energy set to provide 35% of Australia's electricity within two years, The Guardian, July 2019. 

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