A study by the University of Queensland released on Tuesday said that Australia would have to include coal in its power generation mix until 2035. Coal is one of the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions and supplies 80 per cent of Australia's current power requirements.
John Foster, co-author of the study and professor of Economics, said an orderly transition is needed for Australia to at least cut by 50 per cent its heavy dependence on coal. He added that despite the high carbon price at $23 per tonne, the country's power system is not on track to reduce GHG by 80 per cent to meet Australia's 2050 emission targets.
"When you look into the engineering and all the details, you realise what a long time it takes to make these transitions - 20, 30, 40 years is the kind of time scale that you're talking about. To get 80 per cent by 2050, we'd have to be starting right now with a fairly dramatically important shift," ABC quoted Mr Foster.
Two alternatives for Australia to hasten the power mix shift would be to focus more on wind and solar powers which are cheaper and cleaner than building new coal-fired power plants. In 2012, solar power's price dropped by 45 per cent and reckoned the past three years by 75 per cent.
Australian Conservation Foundation Climate Change Program Manager Tony Mohr said these developments are indicators that Australia could target to remove coal-generated power from its energy mix within the next two decades.
He cited South Australia's experience in September 2012 when wind power accounted for 55 per cent of the state's total energy supply for a few days and in Spain where solar power contribution reached up to 60 per cent.
Meanwhile, Latrobe Valley's most advanced clean coal technology projects is facing delay in the production of export-grade coal briquettes for at least another 8 months over investment problems. Construction has started at Latrobe Resources' briquette facility in Loy Yang in November 2011, but the project is on hold pending the ability of a Chinese company that is building the facility to meet its financial commitments.
The plant targets to manufacture 2 million tonnes yearly of de-watered and compressed coal briquettes for export to China