Australia's National Electricity Market (NEM) has one of the highest emissions intensities of any grid in the world due to the historical reliance of both brown and black coal.
Nevertheless, the NEM in the process of deep decarbonisation as it transitions from a coal dominated grid (95.8% in 1999) to one increasingly powered by renewable energy (~30% in 2021).
The influx of cheap renewables (and to a lesser extent, the emergence of new pumped hydro and battery storage, etc) is pushing out fossil fuel generation at the same time as much of the fossil fuel generation fleet is reaching the end of its technical life.
Multiple energy transition models, including the Australian Energy Market Operator's 2020 Integrated System Plan, provide a credible pathway to affordable, reliable and low emissions grid.
AEMO's 2020 ISP "Step change (DP4)" scenario — a scenario, not a prediction — has NEM emissions at 12.6 MtCO₂e in 2041 from total generation (including rooftop solar) of 258.3 TWh, or 49 kgCO₂e/MWh.
Of course the transition may be slower or faster, but I am confident that human ingenuity and sensibility will prevail: technology will develop faster than expected and the political and regulatory environment will ultimately demand deployment at least as fast the 2020 step-change scenario.
While nuclear power could theoretically play a constructive, future role in Australia's decarbonisation, I expect that there will not be any deployment of grid-connected nuclear power before the conclusion of this prediction.
The source of emissions intensity for this prediction is opennem.org.au, which includes rooftop solar generation and excludes the lifecycle emissions of generators, grid and storage as good LCA data does not exist and the level is de minimis.
The prediction is satisfied if 12 month rolling emissions intensity falls below 60 kgCO₂e/MWh at any time before the end date. The prediction fails if the emissions intensity threshold is not met or if nuclear power generation in the NEM exceeds 1 TWh over any 12 month period before the end date.
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