Dust Control & Environment, Mining and Heavy Industries

‘Clean coal’ bid sparks CEFC debate

Frydenberg on the Bolt Report. Photo: Channel Ten

A bid for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to provide funding to a $1.2 billion dollar ‘clean-coal’ power project has been linked to controversial businessman and former politician Clive Palmer.

Fairfax this week reported Palmer may be behind the eyebrow-raising bid for funding from the CEFC.

As the name suggests, the CEFC was established in 2012 to facilitate public and private spending in the clean energy sector.

Whether ‘clean-coal’ technology belongs in that sector is the subject of some debate.

Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg has been adamant that coal must remain part of the energy mix, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) is crucial to ensuring coal’s low-emissions future.

Australia has invested $590 million into CCS the last seven years, Frydenberg said in a February 20 speech.

The nation is yet to take advantage with a “high-efficiency-low-emissions” coal-fired generator of its own, however.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency have repeatedly warned that CCS will need to play a critical role if the world is to meet its emission reduction targets,” Frydenberg said.

“At the same time, the IEA has estimated that CCS could reduce the cost of electricity sector decarbonisation by around US$3.5 trillion between 2012 and 2035.”

The bid for the CEFC to facilitate a CCS power plant was revealed by CEFC boss Oliver Yates at a Senate estimates hearing on Monday.

The CEFC is not currently allowed to fund CCS or nuclear projects, thanks to an amendment added by the Greens during the Corporation’s creation in Parliament in 2012.

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wants Parliament to change the rules, and allow the CEFC to fund CCS projects.

While Yates could not disclose the identity of the bidder on Monday, he did say the project would be a 900-megawatt CCS plant with a $1.2 billion price tag.

In 2009, Clive Palmer proposed a $1.25 billion plan for a 900-megawatt CCS plant in the Galilee Basin.

Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale has been highly critical of any potential rule change.

“Emissions from coal are killing the [Great Barrier] Reef but this Government would rather prop up their cronies in the energy sector with subsidies to build new coal-fired power stations than address the real damage being done,” he said on February 27.

Finance minister Mathias Cormann says the criticism is not realistic.

“Everyone is in favour of renewables,” Cormann said this week.

“[But] we are in favour of a policy framework that ensures that families and businesses across Australia can have access to a reliable, affordable supply of energy.

“It is important in terms of putting downward pressure on the cost of living for families and it is important for business to be able to operate in an internationally competitive environment.”

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