About us: mining and energy

Energy Bureau offers consultancy services and data on the mining and energy sectors in Australia.

BACKGROUND

Australia is a major producer and exporter of a wide range of mining and energy products, including iron-ore, coal, natural gas, uranium, gold, nickel, copper, zinc, lead, bauxite and alumina (feedstocks for aluminium), mineral sands and lithium.

We see a good future for Australia’s resources sector.

This includes coal and natural gas, notwithstanding government support for a steady increase in the role of renewables in electricity generation and other aspects of the energy system. The reasons?

First, Australia is the world’s largest exporter of metallurgical coal (used in steel production), the second-largest exporter of thermal coal (used in electricity generation) and among the top three exporters of liquefied natural gas.

This export strength is highly likely to continue, whatever government policies are in place on renewables.

Second, coal is the lowest-cost source of reliable, low-cost electricity for over 80% of the Australian population. Natural gas is more expensive than coal for electricity generation, renewables can only supply intermittent electricity and there is as yet no commercial nuclear power in Australia. Even if nuclear power is accepted (an issue of ongoing debate in Australia), the first nuclear plant will not be in place before the mid-2030s.

In short, coal and natural gas are likely to be important in Australia until at the least the 2040s – and possibly well beyond.

CONSULTANCY

Our consultancy experience covers working with Australian and overseas companies, notably suppliers, consultants and contractors servicing the mining and/or energy sectors. Details of our experience can be provided separately.

DATA

Data we offer typically consists of directories and special reports on different aspects of mining and energy in Australia.

Our current offer: directories on coal mines and coal power plants in Australia (see the next section for details).

Directories related to coal in Australia

We offer directories on operating coal mines and coal-fired power plants in Australia. Here are brief details:

COAL MINES IN AUSTRALIA
(available Wednesday 10 January 2024)  

This directory covers all operating coal mines in Australia (over 80) and over 200 people at these mines.  People include those in engineering, maintenance and production.
COAL POWER PLANTS
(available now)  

This directory covers ▪ the 18 operating coal plants in Australia ▪ over 150 individual people at these plants, involved in engineering, maintenance and production. 
Details of people listed include position, company telephone number and personal email address. Prices of the directories are A$600 and A$400 respectively.

Please contact us for sample entries and an order form at brian.wawn@energybureau.com.au or
0411 478307 (Australia) or +61 411 478307 (international).

   

Briefing notes

Since the year 2000, two major trends are evident in Australia’s electricity sector: the strongly increasing share of renewables in electricity generation and the strong increase in retail electricity prices.

ELECTRICITY SECTOR: TRENDS IN AUSTRALIA SINCE 2000
12 December 2023

In Australia between 2000 and 2022:

▪ coal’s share in electricity generation fell significantly (from 84% to 47%)
▪ the share of solar and wind rose significantly, particularly from 2015, reaching 25% in 2022

 200020052010201520202022
Coal847968645447
Solar + wind1371825
Natural gas6918192019
Hydro777665
Source: energy.gov.au. Statistics are in terms of the share (%) of total generation, on-grid and off-grid.

Can coal’s role in electricity generation be reduced further? This is the subject of increasing debate in Australia, given that there is no obvious alternative to coal at present for reliable, low-cost electricity.

According to the Consumer Price Index (published quarterly by the Australian Bureau of Statistics), between September 2000 and September 2023:

▪ retail electricity prices in Australia increased a little over 3 times
▪ all consumer prices increased a little under 2 times

Why have electricity prices increased much more strongly than all prices? Over-investment in the electricity sector up to around 2014 is seen as one reason. The strong growth in renewables is likely to be another, reflecting:  

▪ the high transmission costs associated with renewables
▪ the need to backup up renewables with coal or natural-gas plants, operating at below capacity and
  thus  with high unit costs
▪ the costs entailed in maintaining frequency stability in the grid with renewables

High electricity prices are becoming an increasingly-contentious political issue in Australia.

Climate and energy policy

As background to our work, we engage in discussion in Australia of climate and energy policy.

This is done through ▪ published articles ▪ discussion with policy, research and other groups working in the energy field ▪ presentations by Professor Michael Asten, with whom we work closely.

Michael Asten is a recently-retired professor of geophysics at Monash University in Melbourne, former Senior Principal Research Scientist of BHP, and author of over 200 scientific papers.

Since 2015, as part of an international team, he has written and spoken extensively on the issue of natural cycles of climate change. His focus is on warming and cooling periods over the past few thousand years and their relevance today.

US climatologist, Judith Curry, sees the issue of natural variability as “very important” and as “a new frontier” in climate science.

(Professor Curry is the author of the 2023 book, Climate Uncertainty and Risk; see also judith.curry.com).