Unachievable At Any Cost

22 February 2024
Unachievable At Any Cost - Featured image

To meet its 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 80 per cent below 2020 levels, the Western Australian state government will decommission its remaining coal-fired power stations by the end of the decade.

Western Australia is uniquely vulnerable to issues arising from the intermittency of renewable energy generation due to its geographical isolation and lack of network interconnectivity. In theory, this vulnerability may be addressed (at least in the state’s main electricity grid) by way of overbuilding renewable generation and storage facilities. However, this is neither practical nor financially responsible.

  • The capital expenditure needed could exceed $52 billion to replace coal with renewables in the state’s largest electricity network, the South West Interconnected System (SWIS).
  • This will be equivalent to over 130 per cent of the state’s entire general government expense budgeted for the 2024 financial year.
  • Only $3.8 billion has been committed to replacing coal in the SWIS with renewables. Nonetheless, coal generator closures by 2030 are expected to go ahead.

As a result, the state is expected to increasingly rely on gas and experience gas supply shortfalls from 2024 into the foreseeable future. 

In the short term, this means Western Australians will draw down on stored gas and the liquified gas cargoes which were meant for export.

In the long term, beyond 2030, the shortfall could result in rolling blackouts and further harm Australia’s industrial sector.

A policy-induced gas and electricity shortfall will jeopardise Australia’s energy security and the energy security of its key allies, leaving the Indo-Pacific more vulnerable to the actions of hostile powers.
The state government should reconsider its emissions reduction policy and commitment to close its remaining coal-fired power stations. Specifically, the state government should:

  • Abandon the 80 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030.
  • Continue to operate and maintain its coal-fired generation facilities beyond 2030, or make the closure of coal-fired power stations dependent on replacement baseload sources of power being ready to be deployed.
  • Increase the availability of natural gas, a critical element of which is the expansion of the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline.
  • Work with the federal government to lift the ban on nuclear energy generation to provide a complementary baseload source of power.

Support the IPA

If you liked what you read, consider supporting the IPA. We are entirely funded by individual supporters like you. You can become an IPA member and/or make a tax-deductible donation.