A University of Oxford study has named Australia's most polluting coal-fired power stations

The Hazelwood Power Station in Melbourne. Hamish Blair/Getty Images

Australia’s most polluting and inefficient coal-fired power stations, and their owners, have been named in a study by researchers at the University of Oxford.

A report by the Stranded Assets Program at the university’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment also estimates the cost of closing down the stations.

To limit global emissions to a level consistent with a 2°C future the International Energy Agency estimates that it will be necessary to close around a quarter of all subcritical (those using older and least efficient technology) coal-fired power stations worldwide by 2020.

Australia’s 22 subcritical power stations account for about 24% of Australia’s carbon emissions. They are owned by 19 companies.

Nine out of the top 10 highest carbon emitters in Australia own these power stations.

Four companies with a combined total of 11 power stations (AGL Energy, Origin Energy, Stanwell Corporation, and Delta Electricity) are responsible for more than half of Australia’s total subcritical capacity.

“Australia’s subcritical power stations have the highest average carbon emissions of any major country and nearly two-thirds are more than 30 years old,” said Ben Caldecott, lead author and Director of the Stranded Assets Program.

“There is a strong case for investors to evaluate the risk of companies exposed to these assets.”

The researchers also looked at compensation costs to close all of Australia’s subcritical power stations within 5, 10 or 15 years.

At 2015 prices this was estimated as $18.3 billion over 5 years, $13.7 billion over 10 years and $8.4 billion over 15 years.

Total compensation decreases over time because more power stations reach the end of their technical life before they need to be paid to close.

“If advanced economies with old and inefficient subcritical power stations, like Australia, the UK, and the US, don’t close them down first, we cannot expect China, India, South Africa, or Indonesia to follow suit in a timely fashion,” Caldecott said.

These, according to the report, are the subcritical power stations, the ones using the lowest efficiency technology:

Source: Stranded Assets Program at the University of Oxford.

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