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Nationals push for new coal generator in NSW is a preposterous idea

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Liddell Power Station

Liddell Power Station

The Deputy Premier of NSW, John Barilaro, wants taxpayers to build a new coal fired power station. This is a preposterous idea pushed by a panicked and desperate politician.

In politics, timing is everything and Barilaro’s announcement comes just days after he backed an equally crazy plan to spend $2.5 billion on sports stadiums in Sydney.

By backing Sydney sports stadiums ahead of regional schools, hospitals and roads, Barilaro, as the leader of the Nationals failed his regional constituency.

Hence the announcement that he wanted public money invested in a new coal fired power station. He thinks this will allay voter anger and help him in regional seats.

It comes at a time when the major energy companies have made commercial decisions not to further invest in coal fired generation.

AGL has set out plans for the orderly retirement of its coal burning power stations, and while the existing stations will continue to provide a large share of our state’s energy generation for many years, new generation will overwhelmingly come from clean energy sources, combined with batteries and other forms of energy storage.

But the economic realities underpinning these rational investment decisions are nothing to Barilaro.

It was only a couple of months ago that he was spruiking another madcap plan to have a fleet of nuclear power stations dotted across New South Wales. He was, unsurprisingly, silent about which regional seat would be home to a nuclear waste dump.

Not a single serious voice from the energy industry supported him.

For seven years the Liberals and Nationals have had one energy policy – just privatise it.

Having sold off all the old power stations, Barilaro now wants to build a new one.

This is incoherent and irresponsible policy making. If Barilaro wants to get NSW into the business of owning coal power stations, why did he privatize a string of them?

These privatisations are notorious. The NSW Government sold the Vales Point power station for $1 million. The new owner has valued it at $730 million.

Instead of floating silly fantasies about nuclear and coal, Barilaro should be ensuring NSW’s involvement in the orderly transition to a clean energy future.

On February 10 this year, New South Wales ran out of power.  Tomago Aluminium, a major employer in the Hunter with 1,000 staff, had its power cut off for over 3 hours.

This was a warning Barilaro’s Government ignored, but there is so much that the NSW Government should be doing.

I have put forward a plan to use some of the proceeds from the transfer of the Snowy Hydro to the Commonwealth to invest in renewable generation across regional New South Wales.

This is the sort of idea that Barilaro should be supporting. It would create jobs in regional areas and add clean energy to the generation mix.

There should also be a massive effort to install solar on the rooves of government buildings across the state.  There are a multitude of opportunities to install rooftop solar on buildings such as schools, TAFEs and hospitals.

Instead of indulging in fantasies about nuclear and coal, Barilaro should be demonstrating the political will to make it happen.

Luke Foley is leader of the NSW Labor Opposition and member for Auburn.  

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  • Rob

    This guy is crazy! How do these people get elected?

    • Joe

      The last days of the previous State Labor govt. and the daily campaigning ( not news reporting) by Rupert’s newsrags easily convinced the punters to vote in Barry ‘OFarrell’s COALition. And now we / NSW are stuck with the Gladys and John double act with solid support from the Rupe.

    • Thylacine

      By crazy people

      • Rob

        That’s it……the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

  • DevMac

    “The NSW Government sold the Vales Point power station for $1 million. The new owner has valued it at $730 million.”

    Just keep repeating this, over and over, every time the new coal station is idea is floated. Fantastic.

    You can also tell when Conservatives are getting desperate: they call for building of headline-grabbing public infrastructure (schools, hospitals and roads aren’t headline-grabbing).

  • Ian

    Right on Luke. There are vast acreages of school roofing going to waste.
    NSW Schools are also limited by the poor policies of the Department of Education which limit the size of PV systems, at a time when PV can be a source of income for funding starved public schools.

    • Rob

      The Department of Education makes a lot of poor policy decisions, sadly a lot of it to do with education.

    • Tom

      If they didn’t starve the public schools of income, then public students might have half a chance of receiving a decent education.

      And if public students received a decent education, then they might be in a position to compete with privately educated kids for university positions and jobs – including the kids of most of the government members.

      We can’t have that!

  • RobertO

    Hi All, read this article on Vale Point.
    http://reneweconomy.com.au/vales-point-coal-profits-from-energy-policy-chaos-31171/
    In a little over 18 months your investiment in VP of about $50,000 as a share holder made a tidy sum of $2.85 million (my estimate, say $2.8 million, because we do not know how much the 14 shareholders paid).
    The only reason to build a new Coal power station now is so the gov (State or Fed) can devalue it and sell it at a loss to their mates in big business (costing tax payers billions of dollars for this privilage).

  • Joe

    I live in Sydney and I can’t tell you how mad I am with this present COALition government. The Luke is 100% spot on with his article. The thing about the electricity privatisation is one of the biggest cons ever pulled off. At the last election only the Baird / Liberal Party advocated for the privatization. The National Party, representing regional NSW, were quite vocal in saying they didn’t support privatisation and of course Labor said no way. So after The COALition wins the state election, the Liberals claimed that they had a mandate to privatise the electricity assets…the big lie! But in NSW everything is being privatised or knocked down only to be rebuilt again. Billions of dollars being pissed away. Like, in part of our rail system, the perfectly good Inner West rail line is being ripped up to be replaced with a driverless metro rail. The new North West rail line will be a driverless metro rail terminating at Chatswood where everyone has to jump off and connect with the perfectly good existing rail line. Why isn’t the existing rail extended to the North West. Our only 17 years old Sydney Olympic Stadium is being torn down to….re build a new Stadium…who in the world does that? Part of The Darling Harbour precinct was torn down only to be rebuilt. The Barilaro can tear down his beloved Liddell and rebuild Liddell 2.0, perhaps. The Sirius Building is earmarked to be torn down with something to be rebuilt. And on it goes….

  • Chris Fraser

    This was a political, but very well argued piece from a usually unhysterical Labor opposition. It was high on rhetoric … and for some reason I want MORE … before 2019 comes around.

  • Malcolm M

    The owners of existing coal-fired power stations are likely to fight this, because it represents government-subsidized competition into their market. It would also reduce the value of Snowy Hydro, which would cost the governments of NSW, Victoria and the Commonwealth. So Victoria could well fight this.

    Where would a new government-subsidized coal-fired power station be located ? The easiest politically would be adjacent to an existing power station and coal mine such as Liddell, but this is owned by AGL who would not be happy with a new competitor. If the goal of the government investment is to swing marginal National Party seats. But Liddell is located in a safe National Party electorate (Upper Hunter), so there would be a lot of expenditure for little electoral benefit. Or it could go at Mount Piper, which again is a very safe National seat (Bathurst). To go outside these established coal-mining areas runs the risk of causing electoral harm.

    • Tom

      On the other hand, the private generators may support it, as they know that in a few years time it will likely be sold off and they will have the opportunity to make another instant $729 million by buying another $730 million asset for $1 million.

      After all – if it wasn’t for governments building coal-fired power stations, where would the shareholders get their power stations from? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe that a coal-fired power station has ever been built and funded by a private company in Australia yet. And probably never will be.

  • Ken Fabian

    Having “invested” so heavily in entrenching denial of climate risks within it’s core voter base – encouraging resistance to counter arguments based on facts or reason as well just to be sure – the National Party leadership, which may well believe it’s own BS on climate and renewable energy, now can’t use facts or reason without losing those voters to Hanson’s ON or Bernardi’s AC. They’ve forked themselves.

    Like too many pollies in parliament, their willingness to fight for what they believe would be admirable if it weren’t for their unwillingness to question those beliefs or base them on facts and reason.

    • Joe

      The great hypocrisy of The Nationals who say that they represent the Farmers. The Farmers know that climate change is happening, they are experiencing it and are concerned about their futures. And yet The Nationals are in complete denial on the issue and in effect don’t represent the Farmers. No wonder the Hanson is cleaving off votes, the red headed bomb thrower is acting as the agent for change.

  • Radbug

    Barilaro sounds Venezuelan in the level of his public policy lunacy.

  • trackdaze

    Thought the nationals represented farmers. Farmers probably are keen not to see vast amounts of water used in coal fire generation.

    In other news didn’t Gina give barbaby an award recently?

    • mick

      mate the nats are owned by big mining dont have to look too far to see that

  • dono

    Isn’t it absurd, the ALP once stood for government ownership but flogged off anything the LNP had left. Now its the National party that wants government ownership of a coal plant that nobody else wants.

  • Robert Comerford

    Barilaro; Alan Jones hand puppet?

  • Phil

    I’m in NSW and 100% Off Grid

    So i have no influence on these decisions

    It feels so good !