The energy system of Australia

Fossil fuels accounted for 90% of Australia’s energy supply in 2017, and 79% of electricity generation in 2019.
Just over half of energy consumed was from oil.

This page has not yet been updated with energy data from BP for year 2019, which was the most recent as of August 2020. The most recent year of data on this page is 2018, except for electricity data which is 2019.

The concepts presented here are explained in the post Energy accounting.

CO₂ emissions

Chart 1.(a) Annual Australian fossil fuel CO2 emissions, 1965 to 2018. Data: BP(2019).1 (b) Australian fossil fuel CO2 emissions (the energy sector), 1959-2018. Data: Global Carbon Project.2 Flaring emission shown only for years 2000 to 2018.

Primary energy supply

Chart 2. Australia’s primary energy supply, 1990 to 2018. RH-most shaded bars indicate years 2017 and 2018. Data: BP(2019).1 3 4
Chart 3. Australia’s primary energy supply, 1990 to 2018, expanded. RH-most shaded bars indicate years 2017 and 2018. Data: BP(2019).1 3 4
Chart 4. Annual change of Australia’s primary energy supply, 2000 to 2018. Data: Calculated using BP(2019).1 3 4
Chart 5. Australia’s primary energy supply by share in 2017. Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.5 This dataset is the only available that shows all energy sources.
Chart 6. Australia’s primary energy supply by share. Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.5
Table 1. Numerical values of Australia’s primary energy supply. Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.5 Dashes indicate negligible or zero values.
‘…there’s no word for coalaphobia officially…’Prime Minister of Australia, and at the time Treasurer Scott Morrison in reply to a staged question from another member of his party. Morrison praised coal and proudly endorsed it as a fuel that delivers prosperity while hoping his ‘lack of fear’ of alternative forms of energy would be perceived as not having a preference for coal-energy. Feb 9, 2017. The party was led at the time by Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull who seemed quite satisfied with his Treasurer’s weasel-words.6
Further embarrassing and shameful conduct from Australian Federal Government politicians.

A measure of carbonisation is the carbon intensity of primary energy supply, shown below, which is the mass of carbon dioxide emitted per Joule of supplied energy. Chart 7 shows that in 2017 Australia’s energy supply was more carbon intensive (‘dirtier’) than China’s,7 and the world.8

Chart 7. Carbon intensity of primary energy supply. Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.5

Energy consumption

Chart 8. Australia’s energy consumption (TFC, Total Final Consumption) and electricity generation in 2017. Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.5
The dashed segment in the left hand most pie chart represents the equivalent share of electricity if the quantity produced in 2017 was produced within a 100% wind/water/solar (WWS) energy system, serving to demonstrate the remaining change needed for full electrification. The 23.5% in 2017 equates to 55% under WWS, as shown. The share of electricity becomes greater because total energy consumption of a 100% WWS system reduces to 42.9% of business-as-usual.9 10
This is due to: (a) using heat pumps for building heat; (b) using electricity for industrial heat; (c) using battery and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles; (d) eliminating mining, transportation and processing of fuels, and (e) efficiency improvements.
Also note: (i) Non-energy use of energy sources excluded (e.g. oil used for lubrication); (ii) Transport & Distribution Losses include gas distribution, electricity transmission, and coal transport, and (iii) Examples of Electricity Industry Own-Use include energy consumed in coal mines, own consumption in power plants and energy used for oil and gas extraction.11
Chart 9. Australia’s energy consumption (TFC) by: (a) Energy source; (b) Economic sector. Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.5
Chart 10. Energy consumption (TFC) in economic sectors. Note: The transport sector includes rail and aviation. Gridlines removed for clarity. Data: Calculated using IEA(2019) online free version.5

Half of Australia’s transport fuel is processed from crude oil by Australia’s four refineries,12 and 83% of this crude oil is imported.13. The other half of transport fuel is imported; 51-53% from Singapore, 18% from South Korea, 12% from Japan and the remaining 17% to 19% from other countries.13

Electricity

In 2016 Australia had 23 operating coal fired power stations, with a combined capacity of 25GW.14 15 Based on announced closures and the expectation of a 50 year operating life, as specified by Transgrid,16 all but Bluewaters 1 and 2 power stations in WA are expected to close prior to 2052 – that amounts to 98%17 of coal power generation capacity, which in 2019 was 56% of total electricity generation.

Chart 11. Share of fuel types in Australia’s electricity generation for year 2019. Data: Australian Government.18
Chart 12. Electricity generation in Australia. Data: Australian Government.18

Additions of renewables are consistent after 2009 (except in 2012).

Chart 13. Changes of Australia’s electricity generation. Data: Australian Government.18 19 Biofuels are not necessarily carbon-neutral, and so have been excluded from this category.4
Chart 14. Changes of Australia’s electricity generation by seperate fuel. Data: Australian Government.18

Chart 15 shows that over the past decade, coal’s share has reduced by 16%. Despite the share of gas increasing by almost 5%, the share of renewables has replaced that of fossil fuels.

Chart 15. Change of share of fuel type in electricity generation during the decade FY2009-19. Data: Australian Government.18

Chart 16 shows the change of electricity generated by each fuel type in calendar year 2019 relative to 2018. While this chart provides information about the rate of change of each fuel, it omits information about scale because each fuel is compared with its own previous value. Chart 17 provides information about rate and scale by displaying how each fuel changed in 2019 relative to total electricity generation in 2018.

Chart 16. Change of share of fuel type in electricity generation in 2019. For example: Hydro = [Hydro in 2019 – Hydro in 2018] / Hydro in 2018.
Data: Australian Government.18
Chart 17. Change of share of fuel type in electricity generation in 2019, relative to Total Electricity Generation in 2018.
For example: Hydro = [Hydro in 2019 – Hydro in 2018] / Total electricity generation in 2018.
Data: Australian Government.18

Despite the reduction of hydro, the growth of generation by renewables not only replaced the reduction of fossil fuels, but added half as much again (i.e (2.18-1.41)/1.41 = 55%).

Footnotes
  1. https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html()()()()
  2. http://folk.uio.no/roberan/GCB2018.shtml()
  3. Note: (i) BP’s definition of Renewables is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Solid Biofuels & ‘Other’; (ii) BP does not fully account for biofuels; and (iii) Solid biofuels may not be carbon-neutral.()()()
  4. https://www.worldenergydata.org/biofuels/()()()()
  5. https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics/data-tables?country=AUSTRALI&energy=Balances&year=2017()()()()()()()
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KoMeJB_ywY()
  7. https://www.worldenergydata.org/china/()
  8. https://www.worldenergydata.org/world-energy-supply/()
  9. 8.7/20.3 = 42.9%, https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/TimelineDetailed.pdf()
  10. https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CombiningRenew/WorldGridIntegration.pdf()
  11. https://www.iea.org/statistics/resources/balancedefinitions/()
  12. https://www.aip.com.au/resources/glance-australian-oil-refineries()
  13. https://theconversation.com/australia-imports-almost-all-of-its-oil-and-there-are-pitfalls-all-over-the-globe-97070()()
  14. http://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/minerals/mineral-resources-and-advice/australian-resource-reviews/black-coal()
  15. https://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/minerals/mineral-resources-and-advice/australian-resource-reviews/brown-coal()
  16. Note 2 of figure 4, https://www.transgrid.com.au/news-views/publications/Documents/Transmission%20Annual%20Planning%20Report%202018%20TransGrid.pdf()
  17. 1-208MW*2/25GW()
  18. https://www.energy.gov.au/publications/australian-energy-statistics-table-o-electricity-generation-fuel-type-2018-19-and-2019()()()()()()()
  19. Biofuels are not necessarily carbon-neutral, and so have been excluded from the category Renewables.()