The horror! Desalination plants to blow up emissions targets

The New South Wales government recently announced plans to double the capacity of the Sydney desalination plant to 500 million litres a day. A 15 million litre a day plant is also planned for the Hunter region, while one as large as the existing Sydney plant could be built in the Illawarra region if water levels in Sydney dams continue to fall. These desalination plants have sparked concern about a possible lift in greenhouse gas emissions in NSW:

Independent MP Justin Field said other desalination works could add to the demand on the grid…

“Desalination is hugely energy intensive and will produce significant greenhouse gas emissions if powered by coal,” Mr Field said. “The new and expanded desalination plants currently being considered in Sydney, the Illawarra and the Hunter could consume as much as 615 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year.”

If all that electricity were to come from the state’s coal-fired power stations, NSW’s annual emissions would increase by some 615,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent a year, or the same as adding 250,000 cars on the road, he said…

Let’s cut the bull. Australia will never meet its emissions target while it continues to grow its population by around one million people every three years via mass immigration.

The next chart on Sydney highlights the point. According to the ABS’ medium (Panel B) population projections, Sydney’s population will hit 9.7 million people by 2066, 5.1 million more than what would occur under zero net overseas migration (NOM):

That’s an enormous number of extra people consuming resources and emitting greenhouse gasses.

Moreover, with reduced projected rainfall and rising evapotranspiration rates, Sydney and its surrounding regions would need to build a battery of energy-sucking water desalination plants, which will necessarily raise emissions.

Remember too that around one quarter of Australia’s emissions come from the construction, operation and maintenance of buildings. Therefore, as Sydney’s population almost doubles, so too will the number of buildings, driving emissions upwards.

Sure, the Government could attempt to power these desalination plants via renewable energy, but this would very likely shuffle the deck chairs and leave the rest of the state relying on traditional power supplies.

Immigration-fuelled population growth is unambiguously threatening Australia’s ability to meet its Paris Agreement emissions targets, in addition to straining its fragile natural environment.

The current droughts and fires should be a call to arms to stop this ‘Big Australia’ policy madness.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. If all that electricity were to come from the state’s coal-fired power stations, NSW’s annual emissions would increase by some 615,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent a year, or the same as adding 250,000 cars on the road, he said…

    but we’ll add 250k cars as well next year

    • Also abolish state governments.
      Scotty from Marketing can then run the hospitals, schools and police, as well as the fire-fighters.

      We would no longer be able to move from a mismanaged state to a less mismanaged one. No thanks.

    • the higher the power is the more impersonal and authoritarian it becomes

      not that state government should be abolished but should be returned some of the powers taken over by feds
      and local government should be given more power …

  2. The bushfires doubled our carbon emissions….

    Surely the target emissions should be adjusted for population growth. If not, how stupid is that!

  3. Jumping jack flash

    I thought these plants would use all the “green” electricity already in the grid – you can use it too, just call up your electricity company and ask.

    The black electricity can go to the people who don’t pay extra for the green stuff.

    Tricky things, those electricity meters…

  4. The existing Sydney desal funded the construction of the capital windfarm. Can build renewables to offset additional desal demand.
    Less of a problem than you make out.

      • 615 GWh/year desal plants, one for Sydney, one for Melbourne, perhaps another one for Adelaide and Perth. That’s at least 1 TWh/year, possibly 2 TWh/year. If this were to be powered by solar it would either require gigantic batteries or only operate when the sun shines.

        • 350MW solar plant can “produce” 1TWh per year
          there are two ways for not releasing CO2 even if desal runs 24h/day:
          one is to get energy storage and the other is to offset generation of coal plants (make coal and gas power plants generate less during the day than they would otherwise without desal and solar plants)
          At this stage, when most of daylight energy generation is still coal based, second option an obvious choice

          even when we get rid of most of coal and gas to offset other storage options are cheaper than batteries. To store up to 0.6TWh of required energy over a year when sun is not shinning a storage of about 2-3GWh would be needed. That’s, for example, less than 1% of Snowy 2 energy storage capacity – a way cheaper than any extra nuclear power plant generation.

        • Why, oh why, do people keep talking about batteries for very-large storage of renewable energy, and not pumped hydro – which is the standard, existing, proven tech for storing excess power…?

          The storage costs of large scale pumped hydro are far less than batteries, and we literally have thousands of sites in Australia for pumped hydro – and we only need a fraction of them.

  5. Will get even squishier in Sydney as the natives will be less likely to opt for a tree change after this summer. Keep in mind the net migration to Sydney was aided by something like 20k natives moving out of Sydney to offset some of the 100k vibrants coming in.

    • Yeah I’ve been wondering if the fires will make boomer natives less likely to move out of the urban areas. I mean if they want to avoid fire totally that just leaves either the desert or the tropics and not many would want to move to either location I think