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An economic/financial, environmental/health and political analysis of the impact of replacing coal-fuelled power stations with renewable technology in Australia.

Millar, Anthony (2016) An economic/financial, environmental/health and political analysis of the impact of replacing coal-fuelled power stations with renewable technology in Australia. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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The question to be examined in this dissertation involves the analysis of the economic/financial, environmental/health and political impact of replacing Australia’s coal fuelled power stations with renewable technology mix. The quantitative analysis was conducted using RETScreen software package and raised some fascinating results.
The RETScreen extensive quantitative analysis of the financial and economic impact of renewable energy for Australia has been conducted in this report. It shows the Net Present Value (NPV) for solar thermal was $26,061,592,811; a positive amount indicating a good investment proposition; and a reasonable Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) of $3,683.37p.a. Solar thermal also offered a relatively high Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of 12.1%, as well as a short Simple Payback Period (SPP) of 7.4 years. The NPV for solar photovoltaic was $43,686,592,811 making it an economically viable proposition; and a LCOE of $6,174.37 p.a. Solar PV also offered a high IRR of 20.7%, as well as a short SPP of 4.7 years. The NPV for wind was $122,850,329,916, making it a highly economically viable proposition, and a LCOE of $8,681.42. Wind also offered a high IRR of 50.1% and an extremely short SPP of 2.0 years [19]. The macroeconomic impact of the replacement of coal-fuelled power stations with renewable technology has also been calculated in this report. The switch from coal fuelled power stations to renewables would result in; 318,563 additional jobs for Australia, and increase of $24,591,152,220 annually to GDP or an increase of 1.206%.

The environmental/health aspects of the switch to renewables have been ascertained in this report. In the extraction of the coal, there is the inherent land degradation for open cut mines and the land subsidence issues for underground mines. The spontaneous combustion of coal occurs with alarming regularity in Australia with the interaction of oxygen in the air and the pulverised coal powder. The contamination of the water supply is also an issue of major concern in the extraction process. Then the issues of carbon dioxide (and other GHG’s) released into the atmosphere when the coal is combusted in the power plant solar thermal and solar PV will each save 12,252,065 tCO2 per annum, and wind will save 24,504,129 tCO2 annually; a total of 49,008,259 tCO2 annually. Other gases released from burning coal include sulphur dioxide, mercury and other particulates. These are known to cause respiratory health problems as well as acid rain and could be the direct result of human death and increase this mortality by up to 4% [46].

The current political standing and Renewable Energy Target (RET) have been assessed in this report. As at 23/02/2016, the most current renewable energy target (RET) for Australia is from the Department of the Environment (DET) media release from 23 June 2015. It states that the new target for large scale generation of “33,000GWh in 2020 will double the amount of large scale renewable energy being delivered...compared to current levels” [48]. This means the current level of large scale renewable energy in the mix of 13.47% [49] will almost double to 23.5% of the total energy supply. However, some exemptions in the RET legislation have resulted in a redistribution of wealth from retail consumers of electricity to the manufacturing export sector.

The findings of this report is that an energy mix of 50% wind, 25% solar thermal and 25% solar photovoltaic would suit Australia’s climate and economic standing. The replacement of coal fuelled power stations with 100% renewable is in the best interests for the Australian people in an economic/financial, environmental/health, and political aspects. While the rest of the planet is embracing the renewable energy renaissance, Australia has the resources and opportunity to move forward but seems to lack only motivation; the onus is on the people to demand change via their elected politicians.

Publication Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Engineering and Information Technology
Supervisor: Whale, Jonathan
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