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Australia's Coal Consumption at 25-Year Low in 2018-19



By Kevin Morrison

October 5, 2020
- Australian coal consumption dropped to a 25-year low of 103.99mn t in the 2018-19 fiscal year to 30 June — largely because of a decline in brown-coal consumption for power generation in the southern state of Victoria — and was down by 3.2pc from the 107.53mn t consumed in 2017-18, according to the latest official Australian Energy Statistics (AES).

The 2018-19 coal consumption was the lowest since 101.64mn t in the 1993-94 fiscal year when brown coal was the largest coal fuel used at the time at 51.13mn, according to the AES for 2018-19 released by the Australian department of industry, science, energy and resources.

The fall in Australia's coal consumption is almost entirely because of a reduction in brown coal use in Victoria, which relies on the fuel for a significant part of its power generation. But Victoria's brown coal plants are also old and the most greenhouse gas emissions intensive, and its usage is expected to decline further in the coming years.

The 1,542MW Hazelwood brown coal-fired power plant in Victoria closed in March 2017 and the 1,480MW Yallourn plant is proposed to close in 2029.

Coal usage in Australia's two largest coal-consuming states of New South Wales and Queensland, which are also the largest coal-producing states, have remained stable, according to the AES data for 2018-19.

Black coal consumption in Australia is also below its peak of 71.41mn t in the 2006-07 fiscal year, which reflects the closure of several black coal power plants over the past 12 years. The 1,680MW Liddell black coal power plant is due to close over the 2022-23 calendar years.

Coal-fired power plants are also facing competition from renewable energy, with solar, wind and hydro sources accounting for more than 30pc of power generation in eastern Australia, which is known as the National Electricity Market (NEM), over the past 30 days, according to the OpenNem website.

But Australia's production of coal has continued to rise despite its declining coal consumption, with almost 80pc of all coal produced in the country exported as thermal and metallurgical coal.

Australia's coal consumption ('000t)  
Black coal use New South Wales (NSW) Queensland Western Australia Australia Brown coal Australia total Total Australia
2014-15 25,225.0 23,047.0 6,439.0 55,913.0 64,494.0 120,407.0
2015-16 26,602.0 24,578.0 6,893.0 59,261.0 61,973.0 121,234.0
2016-17 26,736.0 25,798.0 7,372.0 61,141.0 55,945.0 117,086.0
2017-18 27,094.0 27,068.0 6,884.0 62,211.0 45,319.0 107,530.0
2018-19 27,158.0 26,268.0 6,410.0 60,956.0 43,031.0 103,987.0
Australia's coal production — thermal and coking ('000t)          
  Black coal total Queensland NSW Brown coal Victoria    
2014-15 444,365.2 239,591.9 196,413.0 66,894.8    
2015-16 437,315.9 237,624.8 191,330.7 60,638.7    
2016-17 443,002.0 237,674.6 198,160.6 56,718.6    
2017-18 449,938.3 248,621.8 194,276.0 45,955.8    
2018-19 453,813.4 250,568.6 196,610.4 43,315.2