Getting out of coal is a simple message, but a challenging task

By Andy Vesey – Managing Director & CEO,  AGL Energy Limited

Last week we released an ad campaign announcing our commitment to get out of coal, starting in 2022 and ending in 2050.

Reactions varied from those who were upset we weren’t planning to invest in clean coal (we do look at it, but at present the economics don’t stack up) to those genuinely worried that 2050 would be too late for our planet.

The challenge for us is that we’re embarking on something incredibly complex but the communications environment demands a simple explanation. There isn’t one.

Technology is changing constantly, and those changes aren’t smooth and linear, they’re erratic and bumpy. Our modelling has shown us there is a pathway to zero-net emissions by 2050, but we obviously haven’t been able to model the impact of unknown technology, so we can’t yet factor that in.

The other variable is government policy. We’ve called for an Emissions Intensity Scheme, but so far, that’s not happening. Trying to predict when it will, is impossible.

Some people have asked why we aren’t starting sooner. Realistically, we did. Our first coal-fired power station closes in 2022, but we’ve been adding renewable capacity for decades, and now, with the biggest wind farm and biggest solar farm in our portfolio, we’re better able to reduce our reliance on coal and still keep the lights on.

Another criticism is that our announcement is all about publicity. We think being vocal and public about our position plays a part in increasing the understanding amongst the general community that a zero emissions future is possible. AGL is the biggest emitter in the country, if we can find a way to get there, anyone can – and that sends an important message.

If you’re interested, we’ve got a Tough Questions section on our site that goes over some of the other issues people have been asking about, and we’ll keep adding to that over coming months.

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