Misinformation about wind farms and emissions

There have been several stories in recent weeks spreading misinformation about wind farms. In particular, some stories have focused on misunderstanding of emissions from existing coal fired power stations, insisting that existing power station emission intensities are increasing because of the ‘intermittant’ nature of wind. The data does not support this hypothesis. Total emissions associated with producing electricity have fallen in recent years. Additionally and importantly, the intensity of supply has fallen. Crucially, this includes emissions produced from the consumption of all fossil fuel irrespective of whether the actual consumption of that fuel resulted in the dispatch of electricity (see the requirements of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act).

The intensity of Australian electricity supply has fallen from 0.95 tonnes/MWh in 2000/01 to 0.85 tonnes/MWh in 2011/12[1]. It is therefore incorrect to assert that individual power stations emissions are increasing because of the introduction of wind power. If this was the case, the emissions intensity of electricity supply in Australia would not be expected to fall by nearly 10% over this time period.


[1] Derived from Australian National Greenhouse Accounts and esaa Annual Reports.

2 Responses

  1. Steve Trubenbacher

    This article implies a contribution of 10% emissions intensity reduction. What have wind farms actually contributed to the reduction of emissions intensity in the time frame 2000 versus 2011?Please substantiate your reply.

    Reply
  2. Adrian Gibney

    Hi Steve,

    The essa releases a snapshot of Australian electricity generation in its annual Electricity Gas Australia publications – including a split by fuel type. Wind generation increased by 7 TWh between FY2001 and FY2012.

    A theoretical alternative scenario for FY2012 could be a situation where no generation occurred from wind. This would mean that 7 TWh of generation would need to be sought from the non-wind generation portfolio. Assuming this portfolio has the same emissions intensity of 0.85 tCO2e/MWh (it would actually be higher without the zero-emission wind generation) then an additional 6 MtCO2e of GHG emissions would have been released. This would result in a generation intensity of 0.88 tCO2e/MWh.

    This higher intensity in the alternative scenario means that the wind farm output during FY2012 reduced the emissions intensity by 0.03 tCO2e/MWh, or 3%.

    Adrian

    Reply

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