Abstract The aim of this study is to evaluate the suitability of pollutant emission data published in the national pollutant inventories for impact assessment of thermal power generation using Australian technologies as case studies. ReCiPe midpoint and endpoint hierarchist methods were used to investigate the environmental impacts of power stations fuelled with hard coal, brown coal, diesel, coal seam methane, natural gas, landfill gas, sewage gas and bagasse. Brown coal was found to be the most impactful fuel source, followed by hard coal and diesel fuel, all averaging above the Australian national power generation environmental impacts. The renewable energy fuels, bagasse, landfill gas and sewage gas, exhibited the lowest environmental impacts. Global warming and fine particulate matter formation were the two most impactful contributors ranging between 97 and 99.8% of the human health endpoint impacts, while global warming and terrestrial acidification were the most impactful categories to ecosystems contributing between 98.3 and 100% of the ecosystem endpoint impacts. Global warming impacts on human health and ecosystems were the major impactful categories for all fossil fuels, while fine particulate matter formation and terrestrial acidification contributed with the largest respective impacts on human health and ecosystems by the considered renewable energy technologies. The major identified pollutants of concern for the thermal power generation technologies are emissions of greenhouse gases, acidic gases, such as SO2 and NOx, and PM2.5. As an interim solution, reduction in the impacts from the fossil fuel technologies can be achieved by targeting the reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions, better control of acidic gases SO2 and NOx, and blending of the renewable energy sources bagasse, landfill gas and sewage gas with coal and natural gas, however long term solutions would require further reduction in fossil fuel reliance for Australia.

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