“Clean coal” and Unicorns

Date: 8.02.2017

Author: admin

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced last week that the Coalition will pursue ‘cleaner coal’ as part of their ‘technology-agnostic’ approach to energy.

‘Cleaner coal’ describes two different technologies; carbon capture and storage and highly efficient, lower emissions coal-fired power stations. The term is misleading as coal, by nature, cannot be clean.
The Climate Institute reports that even the most advanced ultra-supercritical coal power stations emit approximately 700kg of C02 per MWh of electricity. This is less than existing coal stations (900-1,400kg) but is still more than gas (400-600kg) and of course far more than renewables (0kg!). The only way a new coal station can become a low carbon energy source is with carbon capture and storage which adds 50-100% to the cost and runs significant health and safety risks.

Developing more efficient, marginally less polluting coal-fired power stations could be a good stepping stone towards the future cleaner energy mix, but alone it will not suffice to meet Australia, nor global climate goals. Tax payers should be funding zero emission technologies instead of funneling resources into temporary fixes such as ‘cleaner coal’.

This graph from the Climate Institute says it all,

CC Emissions Comparison


What is more, funding new coal-fired power stations would require electricity prices to be up to four times higher than they are currently and unlike solar and wind farms, they take between 7 to 10 years to build – during which time they are likely to be obsolete.

It is now more important than ever to support renewable technologies and to avoid investing in new coal stations that would inevitably be heavily subsidised by the public.



Energy Matters (2017) Clean Coal Australia

Climate Institute (2017) Why the case for new coal doesn’t stack up

Image source:

Words: Lillie Gredley

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