The Energy System of Australia

Summary

Australia’s energy system in 2017 was 89% fossil fuelled (2017 is the most recent year of free IEA data, and the only with sufficient detail).

The share of fossil fuels in Australia’s exports in 2018 was 24% of total value. This is detailed separately in the post Australia’s Fossil Fuel Exports.

Roughly two thirds of domestic electricity generation will need to be replaced over the next 30 years, for which there is no plan, and Australian emissions continue to grow despite extensive death of the Great Barrier Reef and clear scientific projections of further devastation.

This post discusses the topics of energy supply, energy consumption and electricity. To learn about the differences between them, refer to the post About Energy Systems.

Australia’s Energy Supply

Oil tanker docked at the jetty of BP’s oil refinery at Kwinana, Western Australia, August 2019.1 By user Calistemon (CC BY-SA 4.0) Half of Australia’s transport fuel is processed from crude oil by Australia’s four refineries,2 and 83% of this crude oil is imported.3. 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.3

Australia’s energy supply is shown below in chart 1 and expanded in chart 2.

Chart 1. Australia’s energy supply, 1990 to 2018. Data: BP(2019).4 Darker bars indicate years 2017 and 2018. 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.5
Chart 2. Australia’s energy supply, 1990 to 2018, expanded. Data: BP(2019).4 Shaded bars indicate years 2017 and 2018. 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.5

Australia’s energy supply is almost solely fossil fuelled; a product of successive shameless governments, elected by an indifferent society vacuously immersed in oil consumption.

Annual changes of Australia’s energy supply are shown in chart 3. Fossil fuels again outpaced renewables in 2018.

Chart 3. Annual change of Australia’s energy supply, 2000 to 2018. Data: BP(2019).4 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.5

Charts 4 and 5 show Australia’s energy supply by share, which has consistently been about 90% fossil fuelled, and remained so in 2017 (the latest year of freely available data with sufficient detail, from the IEA. BP’s data is inadequate). For comparison, the world reached a maximum of 79% during 2000 to 2010, since dropping to 77% in 2017.6

Chart 4. Australia’s energy supply by share in 2017. Data: IEA.7
Chart 5. Australia’s energy supply by share. Data: IEA.7

Numerical values below simply show little change.

Table 1. Australia’s energy supply. Data: IEA.7 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.8
Further embarrassing and shameful conduct. Tax dollars well spent? But be sure to get those welfare and bus-fare ‘cheats’.

Australia’s fossil fuel (i.e energy related) CO2 emissions are shown in chart 6, showing an obvious spike in emissions from oil.

Chart 6.(a) Annual Australian fossil fuel CO2 emissions, 1965 to 2018. Data: BP(2019).4 (b) Australian fossil fuel CO2 emissions (the energy sector), 1959-2018. Data: Global Carbon Project.9 Flaring emission only for years 2000 to 2018.

A measure of carbonisation is the carbon intensity of the energy supply, shown below, which is the mass of carbon dioxide emitted per Joule of energy supplied. Chart 7 shows that in 2017 Australia’s energy supply was more carbon intensive (‘dirtier’) than China’s,10 and the world.11

Chart 7. Carbon intensity of Australia’s energy supply. Data: IEA.7

Australia’s Energy Consumption

Australia’s expansion of its domestic gas supply: The Ocean Monarch offshore drilling rig.12 Manufactured in Norway, commissioned in 1974, owned by Diamond Offshore Drilling, and tours the world.13 The 22,000 ton rig has been contracted to Cooper Energy who are drilling the first of two new gas wells into the Sole gas field, 35km offshore of the Gippsland coast. Gas will be piped to the shore via a 65km subsea pipeline and control umbilical to the Orbost gas plant for processing. From there the gas will be distributed to the domestic east coast market via the Eastern Gas Pipeline.14

As shown in figure 1 above, energy consumption describes energy after conversions. For example, some energy supplied by coal is converted and consumed as electricity, and the rest is instead combusted and consumed in industrial applications (e.g. steel manufacture) and domestic applications (e.g. cooking).

Australia’s energy consumption for year 2017 is shown below in chart 8. Just over half was consumed as oil and oil products, just over 20% as electricity and just under 20% as gas. Of the electricity generated, 63% was coal fired (almost as great a share as China at 68%), gas was 20%, wind 5% and solar PV 3%.

Chart 8. Australia’s energy consumption and electricity generation in 2017. Data: IEA.7 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.15 16 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. AlsoNote: (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.17

The following two charts below show Australia’s energy consumption over time by energy source and by economic sector. Oil consumption by the transport sector is Australia’s largest form of energy consumption.

Chart 9. Australia’s energy consumption by: (a) Energy source; (b) Economic sector. Data: IEA.7

The following charts show energy consumption in each economic sector. 

Chart 10. Energy consumption in economic sectors. Note: The transport sector includes rail and aviation. Gridlines removed for clarity. Data: IEA.7
Liddell coal fired power station, NSW18 The Liddell power station reaches the end of its design life in 2022 and according to its owner AGL, can be (not ‘will be’) replaced with the ‘latest technology’. AGL also states: ‘AGL’s replacement plan is technology agnostic, incorporating an upgrade of the Bayswater coal-fired power station and renewables firmed up by new gas plants and energy storage.’

Chart 11 shows electricity generation over time.

Chart 11. Electricity generation in Australia. Data: IEA.7

In 2016 Australia had 23 operating coal fired power stations, with a combined capacity of 25GW.19 20 Based on announced closures and the expectation of a 50 year operating life, as specified by Transgrid,21 all but Bluewaters 1 and 2 power stations in WA are expected to close prior to 2052 – that amounts to 98%22 of coal power generation capacity, which in 2017 was 63% of total electricity generation.19 20

Less detailed but more recent data is available from BP, and plotted in the charts below. Chart 12 shows shares of electricity generation in 2018.

Chart 12. Electricity generation in Australia, 2018. Data: BP(2019).4 Note: (i) BP’s definition of Renewables is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal and Solid Biofuels; (ii) BP does not fully account for biofuels; and (iii) Solid biofuels may not be carbon-neutral.5

Chart 13 and 14 compare electricity generation for years 2017 and 2018. Although BP classify hydro separately from renewables, it is of course also renewable.

Chart 13. Electricity generation in Australia, years 2017 & 2018. Data: BP(2019).4 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.5
Chart 14. Electricity generation in Australia, years 2017 & 2018. Data: BP(2019).4 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.5

Chart 15 shows the changes of electricity generation between years 2017 and 2018. Australia’s total electricity generation in 2017 was 259TWh, and therefore fossil fuels decreased by 3% of total (-8/259) and renewables increased by 3.9% (10/259).

Chart 15. Changes in Australia’s electricity generation between years 2017 & 2018. Data: BP(2019).4 Darker bars indicate years 2017 and 2018. 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.5

Australia was founded on misery, as a penal colony,23 and successive Australian federal governments have conducted themselves in a miserable manner preventing the reduction of emissions, and not telling the truth to the Australian people. Future misery has now been sown by Australia’s fossil fuel exports, but this isn’t enough – the federal government is promoting more.

Parliament House (federal government), Australia.24
  1. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BP_Oil_Refinery_Jetty,_Kwinana,_August_2019_3.jpg()
  2. https://www.aip.com.au/resources/glance-australian-oil-refineries()
  3. https://theconversation.com/australia-imports-almost-all-of-its-oil-and-there-are-pitfalls-all-over-the-globe-97070()()
  4. https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html()()()()()()()()
  5. https://www.worldenergydata.org/biofuels/()()()()()()()
  6. Table 1, https://www.worldenergydata.org/world-energy-supply/()
  7. https://www.iea.org/statistics/()()()()()()()()
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KoMeJB_ywY()
  9. http://folk.uio.no/roberan/GCB2018.shtml()
  10. https://www.worldenergydata.org/china/()
  11. https://www.worldenergydata.org/world-energy-supply/()
  12. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dockwise_HLV_BLUE_MARLIN_preparing_to_offload_OCEAN_MONARCH.jpg, Jim Hatter from US [CC BY 2.0]()
  13. https://www.infield.com/rigs/ocean-monarch-semisub-60034()
  14. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-03/two-new-gas-wells-drilled-offshore/9722012()
  15. https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/TimelineDetailed.pdf()
  16. https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CombiningRenew/WorldGridIntegration.pdf()
  17. https://www.iea.org/statistics/resources/balancedefinitions/()
  18. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lake_Liddell_with_power_stations.jpg, Webaware [Public domain]()
  19. http://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/minerals/mineral-resources-and-advice/australian-resource-reviews/black-coal()()
  20. https://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/minerals/mineral-resources-and-advice/australian-resource-reviews/brown-coal()()
  21. Note 2 of figure 4, https://www.transgrid.com.au/news-views/publications/Documents/Transmission%20Annual%20Planning%20Report%202018%20TransGrid.pdf()
  22. 1-208MW*2/25GW()
  23. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convicts_in_Australia()
  24. Photo by JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Parliament_House_Canberra_Dusk_Panorama.jpg()