The three largest electricity generators in Australia are responsible for 13 per cent of Australia’s total carbon emissions, and pollution emitted by their coal and gas plants has increased dramatically since 2012-13, according to a new report from GetUp.
The Dirty Three report states that any claims to be green made by the companies do not stand up when compared to performance data. It was prepared in collaboration with Market Forces and Environmental Justice Australia, drawing on sources including the National Pollutant Inventory and the Australian Energy Regulator’s 2014 State of the Market report.
Origin, AGL and EnergyAustralia together supply over 70 per cent of Australia’s small electricity customers and control 46 per cent of the nation’s electricity generation capacity, operating facilities including coal-burning power stations, gas-fired electricity plants and landfill gas flaring facilities.
The report said while there have been public statements from the generators regarding greening their operations, all have lobbied against the Renewable Energy Target.
“This report shows once and for all just how dirty Australia’s three biggest energy providers really are,” GetUp director of market impacts James Grugeon said.
“The ‘dirty three’ power companies often present themselves as champions of renewable energy. They operate behind a smokescreen of sustainability that makes it hard for their customers and Australian consumers to understand the real story.”
Since it acquired Macquarie Generation, AGL has become the nation’s worst carbon polluter, with total emissions in 2013-14 in excess of 40,000,000 tonnes of CO2-e – 7.5 per cent of the total national carbon emissions.
EnergyAustralia’s total carbon emissions in 2013-14 were 20,810,266 tonnes CO2-e, and Origin Energy’s were 12,737,691 tonnes.
Toxic emissions including sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, hydrochloric acid, lead and fine particulate pollution in the PM2.5 category increased by more than 500 per cent from Origin and EnergyAustralia’s power stations during the past year, while AGL’s toxic pollutant emissions are now more than 20 times higher than they were five years ago, the report found.
In the NPI for 2013-14, AGL reported emitting 97.5 million kilograms of toxic substances from 20 facilities, a 10 per cent increase in the total toxic emissions reported in 2012-13; EnergyAustralia showed a 530 per cent increase in toxic pollution emissions between 2012-13 and 2013-14 with 131.9 million kg reported for 2013-14; and Origin showed a 527.5 per cent increase in toxic pollution emissions, up to 50.2 million kg in 2013-14.
The NPI data for 2013-14 shows that collectively the three companies are responsible for 11 per cent of nationally reported PM 2.5 emissions, which have been linked to health impacts including respiratory illness, cancer and dermatitis.
The worst offender in terms of power stations is AGL’s Loy Yang in the Latrobe Valley, followed by EnergyAustralia’s Yalourn power station in Victoria and Wallerawang north-west of Lithgow in NSW.
The rising level of pollution is attributed to all three companies expanding their investment in fossil-fuel generation projects.
By comparison, renewable energy projects account for less than one per cent of Origin’s generation mix, 1.96 per cent of EnergyAustralia’s and 11 per cent of AGL’s.
The report noted that AGL’s share of renewable energy in its generation mix is actually declining, as it expands its ownership of fossil-fuel based generation projects.
- Download The Dirty Three report