Coal giant Glencore is planning to cap its coal production and will start to prioritise investments aimed at a low-carbon transition. It looks like the corporate world knows that the black stuff is on its way out.
In Australia, this will mean moving to clean energy exports, like cleanly-produced hydrogen and the decommissioning of coal power stations. This winding-down process will bring big changes to the electricity industry and as renewables are becoming cheaper, theend could be nigh-erthan previously thought.
Germany is also winding down its coal, but it’s taking a different approach, by having lots of stakeholder agreements rather than the political slugging matches seen in Oz. In Germany, there’s the Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment (Coal Commission to its mates), which will find the path to a coal-free future.
Many voices, one purpose
This commission comprises the representatives of NGOs, end-users, academics, federal governments, communities and utilities; it recommends that Germany phases out coal-power by 2035. This process will start with a steep reduction of a third by 2022 and aiming to be two-thirds free by 2030.
The Coal Commissionhas cross-party support and despite minor niggles, its recommendations are accepted across the board. It’s this party unity and common purpose that’s been missing in Australia, where energy and climate policy bounces around between successive governments and PMs.
The Coal Commission has suggestions as to how its plans can be paid for. It recommends that the communities around the coal plants should be supported through tax dollars, the owners compensated and that energy prices should stay affordable for businesses and domestic customers.
Then there’s how to facilitate the plant closures. Ideally, according to the Coal Commission, the market should decide which plants go, and when. Once they’re out of action, the electricity industry steps in to pay the attendant costs.
An Australian Coal Commission?
An Australian Coal Commission could bring together all the disparate voices and parties in order to create a sensible and lasting consensus on the way forward. The country needs to decide how to support the communities around the old plants, how to exit in an orderly fashion and not do a Brexit, as well as what combination of renewables steps into the breach.