A coal seam gas field in Tara, Queensland

The period of falling electricity demand is now ended, according to the latest Carbon Emissions Index report from pitt&sherry and The Australia Institute. The CEDEX data for March shows that demand is up 2.5 per cent over the year ending March 2016, and carbon emissions up 5.5 per cent over the year ending June 2015.

The major driver of that increase is the need to power the production phase of projects in Queensland’s coal seam gas fields, the report said. Annual demand in Queensland has grown to nine per cent of the total national electricity market since November 2014. Even more bad news, this is about half of total demand expected once all the state’s LNG projects move into full operation.

“Over the 17 months since the switch to electricity in the coal seam gas fields started, at the end of October 2014, the increased supply from Queensland coal fired generators has added an additional five million tonnes CO2?e to the Earth’s atmosphere,” the report stated.

“The projected full increase in electricity demand from coal seam gas production will add about eight million tonnes CO2?e per year to Australia’s emissions, unless there is a shift away from coal to lower emission sources of electricity.”

In NSW, Victoria and South Australia, spikes in demand matched “abnormally” high average temperatures and heatwave days, the report said.

NSW is also showing an increase in carbon emissions due to importing less power from Queensland and therefore meeting demand through increased supply from NSW coal-fired plants.

On the upside, the National Electricity Market saw one of its highest levels of input from renewable energy generation for several decades, with 13.2 per cent of all NEM power derived from wind, hydro or solar.

The report said that in March 2016, the three large solar farms in NSW, including the newly commissioned facility in Moree, contributed 0.7 per cent of total electricity generation in NSW and 0.2 per cent of total NEM generation.

Overall, coal accounted for 76.1 per cent of national electricity generation, up from a minimum of 72.3 per cent in the year to July 2014.

An in-depth analysis of the energy situation in Tasmania showed that the broken Basslink connection with Victoria reduced brown coal generation in Victoria, but increased Tasmania’s reliance on diesel and gas generation to supplement hydroelectric capacity.

The report said Basslink is not expected to be fixed until June 2016, and that this means it is expected Tasmania’s fossil-fuel use in terms of diesel and gas will increase in the short term as demand for heating escalates.