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Canavan goes after ‘hypocritical’ AGL to sell coal plants

A Twitter beef has erupted over Australia’s largest energy retailer AGL’s plans to close its massive Liddell power station in NSW by 2022, despite experts saying the plant will need to remain open to avoid high energy prices or blackouts.

AGL Energy has committed to pull out of coal by 2050, and currently has no plans to develop Liddell past its current lifecycle ending 2022.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday said he had spoken to AGL boss Andy Vesey about potentially selling the plant to another operator who would be willing to extend the power plant’s life, but stopped short of saying the Government would be willing to acquire the site.

“I think’s it’s better that the private sector owns generators like that but I want to say that the vitally important thing for me is to ensure that Australians have affordable and reliable energy,” the PM said in Canberra.

“Liddell going out in 2022 will leave … a very big hole [in energy production]. About a gigawatt.”

Despite the need for continued baseload power, Vesey is adamant AGL sees no reason to extend  the life of the plant, a position Matt Canavan – who recently resigned as industry and innovation minister over citizenship questions – told ABC Radio makes the energy company a hypocrite.

“[AGL is] the biggest hypocrite walking around Australia at the moment,” Canavan said.

“They are the largest coal-fired power producers in Australia.

“On the one hand to say they’re getting out of coal and on the other to be making millions of dollars on the back of it is what you call hypocrisy and it should be called out.

“AGL should be operating with a modicum of the national interest in mind, not just trying to maximise their profits.”

Former PM Tony Abbott took to Twitter, writing, “Agree with Matt Canavan striving to make a point”.

Vesey then replied to Abbott: “We’re getting out of coal. We committed to the closure of the Liddell power station in 2022, the end of its operating life … Keeping old coal plants open won’t deliver the reliable, affordable energy our customers need.”

Canavan then joined the Twitter fray, writing, “What a joke! You say your [sic] getting out of coal in 2050!”

He then later added, “Hay [sic] @AndyVesy_AGL if you want out of coal sell your coal power stations for book value and ease your moral guilt!”

AGL issued an ASX statement this morning, saying it is still committed to the closure of Liddell Power Station in 2022, “which is the end of its operating life”.

“AGL recognises community and government concerns in relation to energy security … and continues to assess the capacity that will be needed post 2022 to replace Liddell.

“AGL will continue to engage with governments, regulators and other stakeholders to deliver appropriate outcomes but notes that the company has made no commitment to sell the Liddell Power Station nor to extend its life beyond 2022.”

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