Energy in Australia

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Graph, with a dip followed by a rise
Total employment in the electricity-supply industry (thousands of people) since 1984
Adults employed in the electricity, gas, water, and waste services industries as a percentage of the adult population in Australia divided geographically by statistical local area, as of the 2011 census

Energy in Australia is the production in Australia of energy and electricity, for consumption or export. Energy policy of Australia describes the politics of Australia as it relates to energy.

Australia is a net energy exporter, and was the fourth-highest coal producer in the world in 2009.

Historically–and until recent times–energy in Australia was sourced largely from coal and natural gas,[1] however due to the increasing effects of global warming and human-induced climate change on the global environment, there has been a greater shift towards renewable energy such as solar power and wind power both in Australia and abroad.[2][3] This in turn has led to a decrease in the demand of coal worldwide.[4]


Energy in Australia[5]
Capita Prim. energy Production Export Electricity CO2-emission
Million TWh TWh TWh TWh Mt
2004 20.2 1,347 3,044 1,672 224.9 354.4
2007 21.1 1,443 3,364 1,818 237.1 396.3
2008 21.5 1,513 3,514 1,942 240.4 397.5
2009 22.1 1,524 3,613 2,012 244 395
2010 22.5 1,451 3,613 2,159 227.0 383.5
2012 22.8 1,429 3,451 2,089 239.3 396.8
2012R 23.1 1,492 3,691 2,172 236.3 386.3
2013 23.3 1,502 4,000 2,439 234.3 389.7
Change 2004-10 11.6% 7.8% 18.7% 29.1% 0.9% 8.2%
Mtoe = 11.63 TWh, Prim. energy includes energy losses.

2012R = CO2 calculation criteria changed, numbers updated

Emissions per capita and emissions intensity of the economy have fallen 34.2 percent and 58.4 percent, respectively since 1990. These are the lowest values in 27 years.[6]

Overview of Energy Supply in the National Electricity Market [7]
Coal Gas Hydro Wind Solar
2009-10 58% (81%) 21% (10%) 16% (6%) 3% (2%) -
2010-11 56% (78%) 21% (12%) 16% (8%) 4% (3%) -
2011-12 57% (79%) 21% (11%) 16% (7%) 4% (3%) 3% (0.9%)
2012-13 55% (75%) 20% (12%) 17% (9%) 5.4% (3.4%) 5.6% (1.3%)
2013-14 53% (74%) 21% (12%) 16% (9%) 6.3% (4.4%) 6.4% (2%)
2014-15 54% (76%) 20% (12%) 16% (7%) 6.6% (4.9%) 8% (2.7%)
2016-17 52% (76%) 19% (7%) 17% (10%) 7.5% (6.1%) 9% (3%)
Registered Capacity (Supply Output)


Fossil fuels[edit]


According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global coal production increased 23% from 2005 to 2010 and 4.7% from 2009 to 2010. In Australia, coal production increased 12.9% between 2005 and 2010 and 5.3% between 2009 and 2010.[8] Australia was the fourth-highest coal producer in the world in 2009, producing 335 megatonnes (Mt) of anthracite and 64 Mt of lignite.[9] In 2015, Australia was still the fourth-highest coal producer in the world with a 509 million tons capacity and the top coal exporter with 392 million tons.[10]

Australia is the biggest net exporter of coal, exporting 29.9% of global exports (392.3 Mt out of 1,311.1 Mt total).[11] Australia was the world's top anthracite exporter in 2009, exporting 31% of global exports (262 Mt, out of 836 Mt total). 78% of its 2009 anthracite production was exported. In this respect, Australia is an exception to most anthracite exporters. Australia's global anthracite export share was 14% of all production (836 of 5,990 Mt).[12]

Newcastle, New South Wales, is the world’s largest coal-exporting port. The Hunter Valley region in New South Wales (NSW) is the chief coal region. Most coal mining in Australia is opencast.


Australia's oil production peaked in 2000, after gradually increasing since 1980.[13] Net oil imports rose from 7% of total consumption in 2000 to 39% in 2006. Decreasing domestic oil production is the result of the decline of oil-producing basins and few new fields going online.[13]

Natural gas[edit]

Map of Australia, with red circles of various sizes
Proportion of national total of natural gas reserves, 2008
Large yellow pipe going into the ground
Natural-gas pipeline in Western Australia, 2004

Australia's natural-gas reserves are an estimated 3,921 billion cubic meters (bcm), of which 20% are considered commercially proven (783 bcm). The gas basins with the largest recoverable reserves are the Carnarvon and Browse basins in Western Australia; the Bonaparte basin in the Northern Territory; the Gippsland and Otway basins in Victoria and the Cooper-Eromanga basin in South Australia and Queensland. In 2014–2015 Australia produced 66 bcm of natural gas, of which approximately 80% was produced in Western Australia and Queensland regions[14]. Australia also produces LNG; LNG exports in 2004 were 7.9 Mt (10.7 bcm), 6% of world LNG trade.[15] Australia also has large deposits of coal seam methane (CSM), most of which are located in the anthracite deposits of Queensland and New South Wales.[15]

On 19 August 2009, Chinese petroleum company PetroChina signed a A$50 billion deal with American multinational petroleum company ExxonMobil to purchase liquefied natural gas from the Gorgon field in Western Australia,[16][17] the largest contract signed to date between China and Australia. It ensures China a steady supply of LPG fuel for 20 years, forming China's largest supply of relatively clean energy.[18][19] The agreement was reached despite relations between Australia and China being at their lowest point in years after the Rio Tinto espionage case and the granting of an Australian visa to Rebiya Kadeer.[20]

Oil shale[edit]

Australia's oil shale resources are estimated at about 58 billion barrels, or 4,531 million tonnes of shale oil. The deposits are located in the eastern and southern states, with the greatest feasibility in the eastern Queensland deposits. Between 1862 and 1952, Australia mined four million tonnes of oil shale. The mining stopped when government support ceased. Since the 1970s, oil companies have been exploring possible reserves. From 2000 to 2004, the Stuart Oil Shale Project near Gladstone, Queensland produced over 1.5 million barrels of oil. The facility, in operable condition, is on care and maintenance and its operator (Queensland Energy Resources) is conducting research and design studies for the next phase of its oil-shale operations.[21] A campaign by environmentalists opposed to the exploitation of oil-shale reserves may also have been a factor in its closure.[22]

Renewable energy[edit]

Renewable energy has potential in Australia, and the Climate Change Authority is reviewing the 20-percent Renewable Energy Target (RET). The production of 50 megawatts of wind power (power for nearly 21,000 homes annually) creates about 50 construction jobs and five staff positions.[23][24]

Supply and potential savings[edit]

Electricity supply[edit]

As of 2011, electricity producers in Australia were not building gas-fired power stations,[25] while the four major banks were unwilling to make loans for coal-fired power stations, according to EnergyAustralia (formly TRUenergy).[26] In 2014, an oversupply of generation was expected to persist until 2024.[27] However, a report published in 2017 by the Australian Energy Market Operator projected that, over the next two years, energy supply is expected to meet demands, with a risk of supply falling short at peak demand times.[28]

From 2003 to 2013 real electric prices for households increased by an average of 72%. Much of this increase in price has been attributed to investments in increasing distribution networks and capacity, and environmental policy impacts. Further price increases are predicted to be moderate over the next few years due  to changes in the regulation of transmission and distribution networks as well as increased competition in electricity wholesale markets as supply and demand merge.[29]

Energy efficiency[edit]

Lower energy use could save AU$25 billion (£16 billion), or $840 per electric customer, according to EnergyAustralia.[30]

Climate change[edit]

Graph of Australian temperature variability.

Australian total emissions in 2007 were 396 million tonnes of CO2. That year, the country was among the top polluter nations of the world per capita. Australian per-capita emissions of carbon dioxide in 2007 were 18.8 tons of CO2, compared to the EU average of 7.9 tons. The change in emissions from 1990 to 2007 was +52.5 percent, compared to the EU's -3.3 percent.[31] The per-capita carbon footprint in Australia was rated 12th in the world by PNAS in 2011.[32]

Due to climate change, Australia is expected to experience harsher extreme weather events, mainly bush-fires and floods during summer [33]. Rising sea levels are of particular concern for Australia, because most of the population lives in the coast (around 85%) [34].

Energy Policy in Australia[edit]

Finkel Report[edit]

The Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market was published by Alan Finkel in June of 2017, which proposed an approach to increasing energy security and reliability through four outcomes. These would be: increased security, future reliability, rewarding consumers, and lower emissions. The report ultimately recommended a Clean Energy Target to provide incentives growth in renewable energies. [35]

The reaction to the report by scientific experts in the field leaned more towards positive. Positive reactions to The Report are due to the national strategy plan that is providing a Clean Energy Target for Australia, creating customer incentives, and takes politics out of energy policy to help meet the Paris Agreement. Additionally, the Finkel Report is commended for recognizing the current technologies available and including market forces in its solutions by The Australian Academy of Technology Engineering. [36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Australia Country Analysis Brief". 2002. Archived from the original on 2 April 2016. Retrieved 19 October 2016. 
  2. ^ "New Zealand says goodbye to coal power". Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  3. ^ "China starts moving away from coal based energy". 13 September 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  4. ^ Diessendorf, Mark (5 July 2015). "Say goodbye to coal power in Australia". The Age. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  5. ^ IEA Key World Energy Statistics Statistics 2015, 2014 (2012R as in November 2015 + 2012 as in March 2014 is comparable to previous years statistical calculation criteria, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2006 IEA October, crude oil p.11, coal p. 13 gas p. 15
  6. ^ Energy, Department of the Environment and (2017-07-26). "Department of the Environment and Energy". Department of the Environment and Energy. Retrieved 2017-09-07. 
  7. ^ "State of the energy market, May 2017 | Australian Energy Regulator". Retrieved 2017-07-11.  Comparable to previous years statistical calculation criteria, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010
  8. ^ IEA Key World Energy Statistics 2011 October 2011
  9. ^ IEA Key energy statistics 2010 Pages: 15
  10. ^ IEA Key World Energy Statistics 2016 (PDF). International Energy Agency. 2016. p. 15. 
  11. ^ "Key Coal Trends. Excerpt from: Coal information" (PDF). Information Energy Agency (IEA). 01-01-2016. Retrieved 12-09-2017.  Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help)
  12. ^ IEA Key energy statistics 2010 Pages:15
  13. ^ a b Australia: Energy profile Archived 1 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine. 26 June 2007, Energy Publisher accessdate 3 July 2011
  14. ^ "Australian Energy Statistics". 
  15. ^ a b OECD/IEA, p. 131-137
  16. ^ Stephen McDonell, 19 August 2009, Record gas deal between China and Australia – AM – Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  17. ^ Babs McHugh, 19 August 2009, Massive sale from Gorgon Gas Project – Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  18. ^ David McLennan, 20 August 2009, Australia to be 'global supplier of clean energy' – The Canberra Times
  19. ^ 20 August 2009, CNPC to import 2.25m tons of LNG annually from Australia – ChinaDaily (Source: Xinhua)
  20. ^ Peter Ryan, 19 August 2009, Deal means 2.2 million tonnes exported per year – AM – Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  21. ^ Shale oil. AIMR Report 2006 Geoscience Australia, accessdate=30 May 2007 [1] archivedate 13 February 2007
  22. ^ Climate-changing shale oil industry stopped Greenpeace Australia Pacific, 3 March 2005, accessdate 28 June 2007
  23. ^ scheme (2012).Energy Council
  24. ^ Wind Farm Investment, Employment and Carbon Abatement in Australia
  25. ^ (22 May 2011).Carbon tax is delaying investment: McIndoe. Inside Business. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved on 12 March 2012.
  26. ^ Royce Millar & Adam Morton (21 May 2011). Big banks 'no' to coal plant. The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved on 12 March 2012.
  27. ^ Mark, David. "Australia faces unprecedented oversupply of energy, no new energy generation needed for 10 years: report". ABC. Retrieved 7 September 2017. 
  28. ^ "Energy Supply Outlook" (PDF). AEMO. Retrieved 7 September 2017. 
  29. ^ Swoboda, Kai. "Energy prices—the story behind rising costs". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 12 September 2017. 
  30. ^ Australia's largest solar farm opens amid renewable target debate The Greenough River Solar project in Western Australia is expected to have enough capacity to power 3,000 homes The Guardian 10 October 2
  31. ^ Energy in Sweden 2010 Archived 16 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Table 1: Emissions of carbon dioxide in total, per capita and per GDP in EU and OECD countries, 2007
  32. ^ Which nations are really responsible for climate change - interactive map The Guardian 8 December 2011 (All goods and services consumed, source: Peters et al PNAS, 2011)
  33. ^ Head, Lesley; Adams, Michael; McGregor, Helen V.; Toole, Stephanie (2014-03-01). "Climate change and Australia". Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change. 5 (2): 175–197. ISSN 1757-7799. doi:10.1002/wcc.255. 
  34. ^ Energy, Department of the Environment and (2014-06-02). "Department of the Environment and Energy". Department of the Environment and Energy. Retrieved 2017-09-07. 
  35. ^ Finkel, Alan. "Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market" (PDF). Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 12 September 2017.  External link in |website= (help)
  36. ^ SCIMEX (1496980800). "EXPERT REACTION: Finkel Report - Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market". Scimex. Retrieved 2017-09-12.  Check date values in: |date= (help)