Tasmanian transport emissions

A necessary debate that Tasmania needs to have regarding climate policy is about how we get around.

Our electricity generation mostly being hydro-electric power, it is often mistakenly presumed that the best individual vehicle choice is to ‘go electric’. The chart below demonstrates that unless Tasmania achieves at least 100 percent renewable reliance in its power supply, then this may not be the case.

To explain further: this chart was produced by one of Australia’s most progressive sustainable transport advisory services, the Institute for Sensible Transport.

The top part of the chart shows relative carbon emissions for each transport mode, this being for Melbourne. The bottom part of the chart is about each mode’s relative contribution to congestion.

Looking at the impact of electric vehicles (EVs) their carbon abatement performance and congestion is on a par with a normal petrol vehicle – that is, if the power for the EV is provided with coal-fired power. It’s impact is much less if the EV is powered by genuine renewable energy.

The problem facing anyone who, with the best of intention, buys an EV in Tasmania is that the vehicle will increase Tasmania’s energy demand. All of that additional power for it must come from elsewhere. Since any increase in demand on the grid is met from either Basslink exports or from the Tamar Valley Gas power station, all of the energy required by the vehicle comes from what is termed marginal supply. That is, it has a very high carbon impact. The unfortunate conclusion is that the actual footprint of that vehicle is no better than that of an EV that is bought and driven in Victoria.

What can be done about this?

1. From the perspective of anyone who wishes to ‘go electric’ one option would be to also purchase an array of solar panels large enough in average output to supply the vehicle’s likely energy demand – if that option is affordable. Alternatively, an environmentally-minded consumer choice would be to opt for an electric bicycle instead, if applicable to that person’s needs. (In many cases, a decision to buy an electric bicycle means not needing to own a car.)

2. From a state planning perspective, there is a need to couple transport planning with Tasmania’s direct carbon emissions, most of which come from transport. This is a very neglected area of policy. Given that electrification of the state’s vehicle fleet is certain to gradually happen (even in the absence of any government initiative) any consequent growth in power demand on the state’s grid needs to be planned and catered for. This debate is ironically absent from political dialogue. But it is one that we have to have.

To clarify: This article is about the need to set a policy framework for future energy supply that synchronises with the inevitable electrification of vehicles over time. If Tasmania were to optimise its energy supply policies in this regard it could take a national lead in this sphere. So long as the state of Tasmania is not able to meet 100 percent of electrical energy demand then well intentioned ethical consumer choices to ‘go electric’ will not deliver the carbon abatement that is desired and the state will be disadvantaged economically.

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Further reading on this: Click here and here.

This entry was posted in ~ Mitigation, Electricity supply, State government, Transport. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Tasmanian transport emissions

  1. Dennis Wild says:

    A very positive contribution.

  2. Dave says:

    Does the Victorian EV car example include the power for the refining of the crude oil into petrol? Analysis seems to vary on how much a refinery uses but they either use a lot of electricity or they use their own oil to generate the power they need. Some argue that the extra demand on the grid by EV charging is not that much because the refinery demand drops (or they burn less oil for power in the refinery).

    But what is more important is that if we wait to replace our car fleet with EVs until we have a perfect grid, then vehicle emissions will stay high for 10-15 years after that. People are not going to throw away a good ICE vehicle that is only a couple of years old. The process of replacing ICE vehicles needs to start ASAP as it will take 15+ years for the current ICE fleet to reach a retirement age. Every new ICE vehicle bought today will be on the road for another 15 years or so?

    And I don’t understand the argument that the state would be disadvantaged economically – why? Currently all money for fuel goes offshore. Surely EV charging money would go interstate when we are importing over Basslink but largely stay within the state (i.e. Hydro, Aurora etc) when we are not importing power over Basslink. I would have thought the economic benefits were either better or neutral.

    I would argue that if all new Tassie cars were EV instead of ICE we would be stepping in the right direction – solar panels or not. Particularly as Australia’s grid emissions should be dropping over time (at least I hope???).

    • Chris Harries says:

      Hi Dave,

      Thank you for your contribution. The article is not disapproving of the switch to EV’s. It’s about making sure that the state energy policies align with that transition as best as possible, and optimises for it rather than works against it.

      The state would be disadvantaged economically as compared to much better situation where EVs were actually able to be powered by the state’s energy renewable system rather than n from fossil fuelled power. This argument is about the need for the state’s renewable energy performance being boosted to match demand. Not sure if you live here or not Dave, but there’s a very high level of complacency in both the political and public sphere’s about these energy policy matters.

      If you live here and are considering buying an EV I would recommend the purchase of green power supply yourself and / or assist in the promotion of the state becoming more self sufficient in renewable energy.

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