Origin Energy to ditch coal

21 October 2015 | Australia's two biggest electricity retailers have now both committed to exit coal power plants.

Energy retailer takes big step towards a sustainable future

The electricity sector is one of the dirtiest industries in Australia, creating about one third of the nation's carbon emissions. And the big three retailers, Origin, AGL and Energy Australia have a bad track record when it comes to cleaning up the sector.

But that's about to change, Origin told us – it's committed to exiting its coal investments by the 2030s, and to undertake no further investments in coal. This follows an announcement earlier this year by AGL to close its existing conventional coal-fired plants by 2050 and to not acquire or finance new ones. 

However, both Origin and AGL also own gas-fired power stations, and haven't announced any plans to close those. Along with Australia's third largest electricity retailer, Energy Australia, they both have also invested in controversial coal seam gas (CSG) resources.

Baby steps towards greener energy

Green energy advocates welcomed the initiative, but challenge the energy company to go further towards a sustainable future: "We welcome Origin saying they will take steps to exit coal-fired power, but we'd like to see an official policy on this. Also, while gas-fired power plants are less polluting than coal-fired ones, gas is still a greenhouse polluting fossil fuel, so we'd like Origin to take the next step and commit to exit gas power plants as well," says Mark Byrne, Energy Market Advocate of the Total Environment Centre.

"In particular, Origin has extensive investments in CSG, which communities and scientists around Australia have decided poses too high a risk to groundwater, farming land and air quality, so we'd like to see Origin commit first of all to exiting CSG," says Byrne.

Origin endorsing carbon pricing

Origin Energy announced to its annual general meeting on Wednesday 21 October that it fully commits to the 'We Mean Business Coalition' initiative on climate change which includes putting a price on carbon. Origin is the first energy company in the world to commit to all seven principles.

Origin is committed to:

  • Putting a price on carbon
  • Responsible corporate engagement in climate policy
  • Reporting climate change information in mainstream reports
  • Adopting a science-based emissions reduction target
  • Procuring 100% of electricity for its own operations and offices from renewable sources
  • Removing commodity-driven deforestation from all supply chains by 2020
  • Reducing short-lived climate pollutant emissions

Last month, AGL also adopted the first three commitments. 200 companies internationally, including 40 Australian companies, have endorsed one or more of the initiatives.

Stay tuned for more information on green energy – CHOICE is cooperating with the Total Environment Centre (TEC), Greenpeace and energy analysts from the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to bring you the Green Electricity Guide early next month.

More CHOICE reports on reducing your carbon footprint