Nationals Senator Matt Canavan has wasted no time in resuming his push to have the Adani coal mine brought into production and a new coal generator built in north Queensland.
Within hours of having the queries over his potential dual nationality cleared by the High Court, and reinstated as minister for Resources and northern Australia, Canavan was telling the Murdoch media that Adani and a new coal generator in Queensland were his highest and most immediate priorities.
And the man labelled the “minister for Adani” by environmental activists wants both projects to be supported by the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.
“I want to get a coal-fired power station in north Queensland (and there’s no reason) why that cannot be done through the NAIF,” he told The Courier-Mail.
“And I want to get the Adani project over the line.” The Courier Mail quoted Canavan as saying there was no reason the NAIF could not fund that project as well “to ensure the mine can start and begin creating jobs”.
Actually, there may be a whole heap of reasons why the NAIF might not want to support either project.
The Adani mine carries huge risks – financial, environmental, and reputation – and a new coal generator near Townsville is not needed and would likely become a multi-billion dollar white elephant.
Even the Australian Energy Council, a pro fossil fuel lobby group that represents the country’s coal generation companies and major utilities, thinks it’s a dumb idea.
“From my perspective it doesn’t make any sense,” AEC chief executive Matt Warren told ABC Radio in Brisbane this week. “We don’t think it’s anchored around what the market needs, it’s anchored around the politics of energy.”
Roger Price, the CEO of Windlab, which is looking instead to built a 1200MW wind, solar and storage projet in the region, and is about to start construction on the 65MW first stage, says a new coal plant would be useless.
“I’ve yet to find anyone who understands how the network operates who thinks that is the case (that we need a new coal generator),” Price says. You can hear more in the latest Energy Insiders Podcast.
“Queensland has the largest penetration of coal in the NEM (National Electricity Market),” and the newest fleet,” Price says. “You can’t run a network on 90 per cent coal. It’s just not flexible enough. I don’t know what a new coal generator would do. It could be built, but it might never operate.”
The push for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine is even more controversial, as it cannot be done without an institution helping to pay for its rail line to Abbot Point.
And because it will likely open the whole Galilee Basin, including the mines owned by Gina Rinehart and others to development, along with the threats to agriculture, water tables and the Great Barrier Reef.
Adani – and the new coal generator – are likely to be key issues in the coming Queensland state election, which could be called as early as Sunday and held before the end of November.
The Opposition Liberal National Party is firmly behind both Adani and a new coal generator near Townsville, as is the Murdoch media, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, which could emerge with the balance of power in the state, and federal MPs such as George Christensen.
Indeed, Christensen published a full page ad in the Mackay Mercury last week, calling for support for a new coal fired generator, and using out of date data from the Australian Energy Market Operator, to justify it.
The ad claimed that AEMO had predicted a potential “breach of reliability” by 2020/21, and this could be solved with a new coal fired generator.
But that prediction was made in early 201, and the most recent AEMO reports, including one published just a few months ago, suggests there are no reliability issues in Queensland at all, and no need for a new coal generator.
Like Canavan, the push for coal mines and coal generators is a triumph of ideology over engineering and economics. But the danger is that it is so extreme that something potentially equally destructive to renewable energy – the proposed National Energy Guarantee – will be seen as the “middle ground.”