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Australian electricity is the most expensive in the world

Australian electricity is the most expensive in the world

Electricity generation is one of the biggest contributors to GHG emissions on the planet - both directly and as a contributing factor in products & services

You have most likely heard that Australia has one of the highest per capita emissions of carbon dioxide in the world. We have 0.3% of the world's population and we release 1.07% of the world's greenhouse gases. For many people, it's a complete mystery as to why we create 3 times more GHG per head than we are apparently entitled to.

It's not your hair dryer

The main reason for our high emissions isn't because each of us are using the dryer more often or driving V8 cars, it's because Australia uses principally coal power (70%) for electricity. While this figure is decreasing with renewables coming online - both across an extraordinary number of homes and new commercial projects, coal is a filthy filthy business and on the global stage, very expensive for the planet.

Coal cooks our books, we live in big hot houses, and we need transport

Australian emissions are monitored on a production rather than a consumption basis and so the creative accounting that the Australian government is accused of in relation to GHG emissions sits largely (but not entirely), within this argument. 

  1. The majority of our energy generation and consumption is coal based - fossil fuel burning. In Australia, we smelt Aluminium and then export it. Aluminium alone accounts for 15% of our electricity use. While we don't use much of the Aluminum we make, it's our coal that stokes the fires that makes it and that creates a pile of GHG emissions. The emissions assigned to a product are assigned where they are created. Australia. 
  2. With the exception of the fact that we still chop down way too many forests, our relatively high emissions are also a factor of our geography and they are linked to power. We are hotter so use more air conditioning, we drive and fly more so we use more fuel. 
  3. On top of all that, we have no real nuclear power and a late starting, but emerging renewables industry. Presumably we didn't feel the need to build alternate power sources because we have so much coal.

What does expensive really mean?

"How Bad are Bananas - the Carbon Footprint of Everything" estimates how much a unit of electricity emits as the CO2e (Carbon Dioxide equivalent). They give 4 countries for comparison. The best, the worst and a couple in the middle. (Even if you don't understand this, just know that at one end we have Iceland with 100% hydropower and at the other end we have Australia. The number speak for themselves.) One unit of electricity emits:

  • 60g CO2e from Icelandic grid
  • 600g CO2e from UK grid
  • 900g CO2e from Chinese grid
  • 1060 CO2e from Australian grid

A typical Australian house

A typical household uses 7,000kWh units per year. We are among the biggest users of electricity for the reasons listed above, but even if we weren't, the same person living in Iceland emits 420,000 CO2e compared to one in Australia who emits 7,420,000 CO2e. (Or a UK person is 4,200,000 CO2e if it makes you feel any better.) 

Now you know what all the fuss is about and why so many Australian politicians are running for the exit at a global level about our emissions. 

Images: Unsplash | Nikola Johnny Mirkovic
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