Greenpeace has accused AGL of attempting to “greenwash” its image, saying the energy giant has failed to take meaningful steps to address climate change.
AGL has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050, but an analysis by the environmental group has found the company remains Australia’s largest greenhouse emitter.
AGL owns three coal plants – Loy Yang A in Victoria and Liddell and Bayswater in New South Wales – that it plans to operate until the end of their technical lives.
Liddell is set to close in 2022, but Bayswater is due to run until 2035 and Loy Yang A until 2048.
A 2020 Greenpeace report found coal made up 85 per cent of AGL’s output, while renewables accounted for 10 per cent.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific head of research and investigations Nikola Casule said AGL’s track record told the story.
“They produce eight per cent of all emissions from all sources in Australia, which is more than double that of the next largest emitter and as much as some of our major companies combined,” he said.
Dr Casule said AGL needed to shut its coal plants by 2030 to help keep climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“It will result in 746 million tonnes of more emissions if they continue on their current plans, which is the same as produced by about 160 million cars a year,” he said.
AGL’s pledge to decarbonise has featured heavily in the company’s advertising since it was announced in 2015, when renewables made up nine per cent of its portfolio.
A company spokeswoman said AGL understood “its responsibility as Australia’s largest energy generator and retailer to drive the transition to a cleaner energy future” while providing reliable and affordable energy.
“Coal-fired power from all providers in Australia contributes 80 per cent of power to the National Electricity Market (NEM),” she said.
“AGL’s three coal generators are the lowest cost generators of their type and contribute approximately 21 per cent of the NEM operational demand.”
Earlier this year AGL announced it would split its business into two companies — New AGL, which would operate its electricity, gas and telecommunications retail operation, and PrimeCo, which would house its coal and wind assets.
In February, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Green Energy Markets found the rapid growth of renewables would lead to several coal plants becoming unviable by 2025.
By 2025 an extra 70,000 gigawatt hours worth of renewables are expected to be connected to the grid.
Since then Energy Australia has announced it will close the Yallourn plant in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley four years early, in 2018.
But Greenpeace said the uptake of renewables was likely to render Bayswater and Loy Yang A unprofitable by 2025.
“What that means is companies like AGL, like Energy Australia, like Origin that run these plants, they have to look after their workers,” Dr Casule said.
“There needs to be a planned transition that looks after coal-fired power plant workers and make sure that they have good jobs to go into when these coal plants inevitably close.”
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