Misinformation about wind farms and emissions

Tim Nelson
Tim Nelson
01 February 2013

There have been several stories in recent weeks spreading misinformation about wind farms. In particular, some stories have focused on misunderstanding of emissions from existing coal fired power stations, insisting that existing power station emission intensities are increasing because of the 'intermittant' nature of wind. The data does not support this hypothesis. Total emissions associated with producing electricity have fallen in recent years. Additionally and importantly, the intensity of supply has fallen. Crucially, this includes emissions produced from the consumption of all fossil fuel irrespective of whether the actual consumption of that fuel resulted in the dispatch of electricity (see the requirements of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act).

The intensity of Australian electricity supply has fallen from 0.95 tonnes/MWh in 2000/01 to 0.85 tonnes/MWh in 2011/12[1]. It is therefore incorrect to assert that individual power stations emissions are increasing because of the introduction of wind power. If this was the case, the emissions intensity of electricity supply in Australia would not be expected to fall by nearly 10% over this time period.

[1] Derived from Australian National Greenhouse Accounts and esaa Annual Reports.