Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Investment in Renewables Is Burying Coal

By Ian Lowe

Politicians lobbying for more coal-fired power stations are defying the preference for renewables by both consumers and investors.

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Last year the Australian government announced it had support for its proposed policy for the national electricity system. The package was clearly driven by political and economic issues. It did not respond adequately to climate change, but it was at least a coherent approach.

The water was then muddied by a fringe group of government backbenchers, who were attacked by descendants of the late John Monash for misusing his name. The self-styled Monash Forum wants the government to fund new coal-fired power stations. Their timing was dictated by the internal politics of the Coalition parties, but their statement coincided with the United Nations release of 2017 data.

Last year the world saw 100 GW of new solar power installed and 50 GW of wind. Total new capacity powered by all fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas and lignite – was about 70 GW, so it’s clear which way the world is moving. In the USA, the solar energy industry now employs more people than all fossil fuels combined.

It is also clear to independent financial analysts that coal has a very limited future. In March, Rio Tinto sold its last holdings in coal mining. That announcement marks an extraordinarily rapid transition in investors’ thinking. Only a year ago, the Australian National University was accused of putting green ideology ahead of fiscal responsibility when it decided to get rid of its...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.