Federal Labor’s climate and energy spokesperson Chris Bowen has issued a blunt assessment of Australia’s ageing coal fired power stations, saying no matter which party forms government after the election, coal plants will continue to close.
Speaking at an event hosted by The Australia Institute on Friday, Bowen said that he acknowledged the reality of looming coal power station closures, which will happen no matter who wins the election.
“Coal fired power stations will close, regardless of who’s in office. I’m prepared to acknowledge that. The government isn’t,” he said.
“There have been many closures under the current government, but they’re not being managed. They will continue, and they need to be managed.”
Bowen added that he doubted that a new coal fired power station would be built in Queensland, despite such a proposal receiving backing from the Morrison government.
“There will be no new coal fired power coming on. The government pretends that there will be a new coal fired power station at Collinsville. I do not believe that is a promise which they will keep.
“There won’t be new coal fired power in Australia,” Bowen repeated.
It’s a blunt acknowledgement from Bowen, who aspires to replace Angus Taylor as the federal energy minister following the election.
Taylor and the broader Morrison government have consistently refused to acknowledge that Australia’s ageing fleet of coal fired power stations are becoming increasingly unreliable and facing growing pressures on their financial viability.
While Labor has sought to downplay suggestions that its stronger emissions reduction targets could lead to an accelerated closure of coal mines, Bowen was much more frank when it came to power stations.
Earlier this year, AGL Energy and Origin Energy both announced accelerated timelines for coal plant closures, the latter excluding Taylor from negotiations on the potential replacement of the Eraring coal power station – likely the product of Talyor’s animosity towards anyone suggesting that coal plants could close early.
Bowen’s comments were made during an ‘energy ministers debate’ hosted by The Australia Institute. Bowen and Taylor had both been invited to participate in the pre-election debate, but Taylor refused.
The forum proceeded with Bowen alone, during which he also suggested that the potential applications for carbon capture and storage technologies were limited and doubted that it would ever work to capture emissions from coal use.
“My approach to carbon capture storage is very much based on scientific evidence, research and results. This gets very ideological, the government thinks carbon capture storage is the answer to all problems,” Bowen said.
“Carbon capture storage hasn’t worked in coal. It won’t work in coal. There is no evidence that it will ever work with anything to do with coal.
“In other sectors, I don’t mind companies giving it a go. But it’s got to be evidentiary based, and we’ve got to see real emissions reduction.
“I want fewer emissions in the air. That’s what I want. I’m not ideological about how we achieve that,” Bowen said.
The Morrison government has made significant funding promises for new carbon capture and storage projects – totalling almost $300 million – under the guise of ‘clean hydrogen’ hubs.
During the forum, Bowen reiterated Labor’s support for Australia to host a round of international climate negotiations, saying it could aid Australia’s efforts to repair diplomatic relationships in the Pacific region.
Labor has committed to bidding to host the first-ever UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) in Australia.
“I can’t think of a better way for Pacific Island nations to make their case to the world than to have them as an integral part of a COP,” Bowen said.
“In some form or other, if we win the bid to host the COP, they will be involved, and I would see them as very genuine partners.”
Bowen said that if Australia hosted a COP, it would require Australia to get its ‘domestic arrangements in order’, likely putting pressure on government to ramp up the strength of its climate policies.
“First, we have to get our domestic arrangements in order, and to have a more credible solution, more credible answers as we go around the world,” Bowen said.
“Nowhere is that more important than the Pacific.
“In relation to COP and our bid – I don’t know whether we’ll win the bid or not, but we want to try because we want to send a message to the rest of the world that Australia is under new management when it comes to climate.”