Australia's Port of Newcastle, the world's largest coal export port, has announced it will be powered entirely by renewable energy, a move that forms part of a plan to have coal account for half of all revenue by 2030 and to become fully decarbonised by 2040.
The port has linked up with electric utility company and clean-energy pioneer Iberdrola to achieve the goal.
One of the critical infrastructure projects secured to help decarbonise operations is a partnership with the Bodangora Wind Farm, located 400 kilometers from the port and operated by Iberdrola. The farm is expected to provide the port with all the wind power it requires.
Already, 97% of the port's vehicles have transitioned to electric models.
World’s largest coal port to be 100% powered by renewable energy https://t.co/FSQ5bVFP3Y— Guardian Environment (@guardianeco) January 5, 2022
Coal is widely considered one of the most environmentally harmful fossil fuels.
According to Port of Newcastle's CEO Craig Carmody, while the port once took pride in its title as the largest coal exporter in the world, times have changed, and that label is no longer applauded. As attitudes shift and coal power generation across Australia falls to record lows, he said the time for a transition to greener pastures is now.
"I would prefer to be doing this now while we have control over our destiny, while we have revenue coming in, than in a crisis situation where our revenue has collapsed, and no one will lend us money," Carmody told the Guardian. "We get 84 cents a tonne for coal shipped through our port. We get between $6 and $8 for every other product. You can see where I'd rather have my money."
The port currently exports 165 million tonnes of coal each year.
While the port’s decision to move towards a greener future has been applauded, many say it doesn’t go far enough.
Critics particularly highlight that the port's 50% income diversification goal is still a decade away and will fail to adequately phase out coal at the rate the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change say is required if the world is to limit warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
"Phasing out coal from the electricity sector is the single most important step to get in line with the 1.5 degree goal,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said last year at the Powering Past Coal Alliance Summit. “This means that global coal use in electricity generation must fall by 80% below 2010 levels by 2030.”
Guterres added: “Once upon a time, coal brought cheap electricity to entire regions and vital jobs to communities. Those days are gone.”