Coal is leaving Australia's national energy market much faster than initially thought and is expected to be offline by the mid-2030s.
That's the assessment of outgoing Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott.
"Coal is inextricably leaving the system and will leave faster than initially thought," she told a climate and energy summit hosted by the Australian Financial Review on Monday.
"It really is struggling to make money."
Dr Schott described coal as being "what coaches were to the motor car".
It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor put the finishing touches on an emissions reduction plan.
The Nationals want a guarantee the plan will not adversely impact jobs and industries in regional and rural areas or drive up power prices.
The government wants to be able to announce a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, instead of a preference, and a stronger 2030 target in time for the upcoming COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
In a signal to the junior coalition partner holding out on an agreement, Mr Taylor emphasised reaching net zero emissions by 2050 was not the same as having no emissions.
He labelled a business-led proposal to tighten obligations on polluters through the government's existing climate safeguard mechanism a carbon tax by stealth.
Mr Taylor is expected to address a Committee for Economic Development of Australia forum on Tuesday about the path to net zero.
The ESB has proposed a different mechanism to pay providers to retain existing power generation and ensure reliability in the power grid as more renewables come on board.
Labor's climate spokesman Chris Bowen said the government not only needed to commit to net zero by 2050, but legislate the commitment and significantly improve its medium-term targets.
Australian Associated Press