Engineering, Equipment & Technology, Mining and Heavy Industries

Mixed reviews for Turnbull’s new coal plan

State governments have voiced their concern over Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s determination to build a modern coal power plant on Australian soil.

The Queensland and Victorian Governments have both moved to discourage new coal investment, after Turnbull addressed the National Press Club on February 1.

As old coal power stations were being shut down around the nation, more modern coal stations should be built to replace their supply capacity, the PM said.

“We’ve invested $590 million since 2009 in clean coal technology research and demonstration,” Turnbull said.

“Yet we do not have one modern high-efficiency low-emissions coal-fired power station, let alone one with carbon capture and storage.”

Turnbull does not think gas can replace the capacity being lost through coal plant closures, “because it’s too expensive”.

Likewise, he said renewables like wind and solar can’t be relied on “because they are intermittent”.

One solution to the intermittent nature of renewables is better storage technology, and the PM said the Coalition planned to invest in that area.

But he was adamant coal is the way to go in the near future.

“The next incarnation of our national energy policy should be technology agnostic,” he said.

“It’s security and cost that matters most, not how you deliver it.”

Turnbull received support from both the Minerals Council of Australia and the NSW Minerals Council.

“This issue is particularly relevant for NSW as we consider how the state’s future energy needs will be met, as well as because our high quality coal is NSW’s largest export commodity by value,” NSW Minerals Council boss Stephen Galilee said.

“Coal will continue to play a critical role in the delivery of reliable and inexpensive electricity in Australia,” Minerals Council of Australia coal director Greg Evans said.

“Australia’s energy policy must reflect the reality that we need a genuine mix of electricity generation options that deliver affordable and reliable power.”

State energy ministers from both Queensland and Victoria were not convinced, however.

Queensland energy minister Mark Bailey ruled out building a new coal plant in the state, saying there was already enough capacity in the pipeline.

“With the start of a large scale renewable industry under the Palaszczuk Government, North Queensland is getting its own power stations, with 21st century technology producing affordable, clean energy,” Bailey said.

“The [Coalition] are advocating unachievable projects because they don’t understand the modern energy market of 2017 and Queensland’s existing energy mix.”

Bailey also said he believes energy prices will go up if new coal plants are built.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s minister for energy, environment and climate change Lily D’Ambrosio said the Victorian Coalition’s proposed staged closure of the Hazelwood coal plant would see Victorians paying 25% more for their electricity.

“Today is yet another example that the Coalition have no idea when it comes to keeping power prices down for Victorian families, alongside their complete contempt for the Latrobe Valley during these tough times,” she said.

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