Has AGL rung the death knell for Oz fossil fuels?

opening of the Nyngan solar farm

At the opening of the largest solar farm in Australia last week: Anthony Roberts MP -NSW Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy, Mark Speakman SC MP – NSW Minister for Environment, Andy Vesey – AGL CEO, Lesley Ryan – Nyngan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Ian Kay – ARENA CFO, Jack Curtis – First Solar, Regional Manager APAC, Ray Donald – Bogan Shire Mayor.

Two major stories lead the debate over solar power in Australia this week, both throwing up intriguing developments for our renewable energy future. Both asking the question: are we seeing the last of the fossil fuel industry in our country?

First was the surprise (nay shock) decision by AGL to close all its coal-fired power stations by 2050, with a guarantee not to build, or invest in, any others in the meantime. Andrew Vesey, the company’s chief executive, (not one you’d immediately think of as a card-carrying tree hugger) called on the government to support the industry’s efforts to move away from polluting technology.

“It is important that government policy incentivise investment in lower-emitting technology while at the same time ensuring that older, less efficient and reliable power stations are removed from Australia’s energy mix,” he said.

AGL is Australia’s biggest greenhouse emitter so it’s likely that the decision from left field is either an economic one, or made to placate Australians concerned about climate change and the destruction of the environment.

Either way it’s a decision made with the bottom line firmly in mind and an indicator of the future of how we acquire energy in this country.

A delighted Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Greens, cited the decision as the beginning of the end for the fossil fuel industry. While the imminent death of the fossil fuel industry may be a touch exaggerated, certainly the writing’s on the wall.

 

As if to underline the changing of the guard (to mangle my metaphors yet again), this week saw the opening of Australia’s largest solar farm in Nyngan in western NSW. The ceremony was attended by (you guessed it) the head honchos of AGL Energy and First Solar, with AGL revelling in its new found reputation as greenies.

Indeed the AGL announcement mentioned above was made on the same day as the opening to maximise publicity.

The NSW government was represented at the opening ceremony, though not surprisingly, not a soul from the feds bothered to show their faces. It seems the debate over solar power in Australia doesn’t exist for the Coalition.

The Nyngan solar power farm, soon to be joined by other major farms at Mildura and Broken Hill, will be at the forefront of renewable energy in Australia. With a full capacity of over 100 megawatts of power when fully operational in July, the Nyngan solar farm will be the largest solar farm in the Southern Hemisphere.

The debate over solar power in Australia has swung against the fossil fuel companies over recent years and last week’s twin announcements by AGL have underlined this. With AGL leading the way, will other major energy producers follow suit? The answer is one that will determine our energy future.

Comments

  1. Greg Bell says

    Umm…. solar power IS fossil fuel. What fuel source do we think mines, refines, transports, melts, smelts, grinds, presses, transports again, lifts, pours, grades, and installs all those panels, inverters, mounts, bases, batteries and wires?

    • Fair call Greg, thanks for your input. Anyone else with a comment on Greg’s opinion?

      • Jack Wallace says

        Why stop there, Greg.
        Without solar power ( beginning a few billion years ago) there wouldn’t be any fossil fuels at all.
        (except perhaps for my mother-in-law!)

  2. Bill Mastrippolito says

    Yes Greg, producing and installing all those solar panels would have used some fossil based fuels to do so. Probably much less than compared to building a conventional coal powered electricity plant. Now instead of burning tons of coal every day producing tons of green house gases, there is NO more green house gases produced for many years to come from solar installations like these.

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