The public should be ultra, super critical of a push for Ultra-Super Critical (USC) coal-fired power stations as a way to tackle climate change, research from the Climate and Energy College at the University of Melbourne has revealed.
Resources minister Matt Canavan commissioned research that found that replacing Australia’s current coal fleet with USC technology could reduce emissions in the electricity sector by 27 per cent. Mr Canavan and energy and environment minister Josh Frydenberg have been spruiking the plan, while The Australian misreported the findings, saying it could cut the entire country’s emissions by 27 per cent (rather than just the electricity sector, which represents a third of the country’s emissions), declaring that coal was “the new black”.
Now research from the Climate and Energy College has found that replacing Australia’s ageing coal fleet with USC technology would cost $62 billion, twice the cost of renewables.
“Replacing Australia’s current ageing coal fleet with newer models to cut emissions is possible, but the question is why anyone would choose to do so given the lack of cost-competitiveness,” Melbourne Energy Institute researcher Dylan McConnell said.
About 20 gigawatts of USC technology would be needed to reduce electricity emissions by 27 per cent, the research found, at a cost of $62 billion.
Using only renewables to replace 20 gigawatts of coal-fired stations would cost a comparatively modest $24-34 billion. And if the $62 billion needed for USC were spent on renewables, the electricity sector could reduce emissions by 50-60 per cent.
“The price of building coal plants is frankly astronomical in comparison to investing in new renewable energy infrastructure,” Mr McConnell said.