Queensland coal plant has a photo – now all it needs is a massive subsidy | RenewEconomy

Queensland coal plant has a photo – now all it needs is a massive subsidy

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A mock-up image of a new coal plant has been created, as part of the increasingly intense campaign to have one built – and funded by taxpayers – in north Queensland.

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The federal Coalition-backed campaign to build a tax-payer funded “high efficiency, low emissions” coal fired power plant in the north of Queensland now has its own poster child, after the release of “fresh imagery” to illustrate what this mythical beast might look like.

Published in News Limited newspapers on Friday, the mock-up of a HELE coal plant appears to have been commissioned by former AGL staffer Nathan Vass, who now heads up his own coal “advocacy vehicle,” the Australian Power Project.

Vass told the Herald Sun that the imagery – pictured in the Tweet above, and reportedly modelled on Germany’s Mannheim coal plant – was meant to provide north Queenslanders with “an idea of what could generate their power in the future.”

It’s an interesting take on the future, to be sure – and one that will require a massive subsidisation from the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund.

Why? Because, as the Energy Security Board’s Kerry Schott noted in a webinar on Friday, they’re “actually very expensive per megawatt.”

What is more, they actually very expensive at a time when the cost of other key energy technologies – solar, wind, battery storage and energy management software – are, as Schott put it, coming down dramatically.

“Unless somebody has a technological breakthrough on that front, I wouldn’t anticipate any new coal after the current fleet retires,” she said in a webinar aimed at exploring the detail of the National Energy Guarantee.

But where there’s NAIF, there is a way. And Vass, and certain members of the federal Coalition – including the newly reinstated minister for resources and northern Australia, Matt Canavan – are not giving up.

The article said that Vass – who in past communications with RenewEconomy has denied being a paid lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry – and his APP had worked closely with local Dawson MP, George Christensen, who has been busy gathering signatures in support of the new coal plant.

“We think that the time is right for a brand new HELE plant to be built,” Vass told the paper. “This would be the first time from the ground-up on a large scale.

“There’s no answer at the moment as to where energy will come from in the next 10 to 15 years. Commonly I’m hearing it could be built in two to four years.”

Really? We’ll just put this here…


And this, while we’re at it…


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  1. Joe 3 years ago

    Oh dear, another coal industry lobbyist in ‘ Australian Power Project’. I guess The MCA is having its troubles of late with BHP and others not sharing the love as strongly as they once did. So a new ‘darling’ on the scene to spruik the ‘benefits’ of that little black wonder rock. But facts are facts, a new Nth QLD Coaler, ‘HELE’ or whatever you call it, is still a dirty polluter and it don’t produce cheap power. Its a dud.

    • trackdaze 3 years ago

      Townsville aka Brownsville is having water issues the last few years. Can’t imagine a massively thirsty coal power plant helps

      • Joe 3 years ago

        A bit of reciprocation between States may be the answer to Nth QLD water . Nth QLD can transmit that beautiful ‘HELE clean’ electricity southwards and us Southern States can pipe that beautiful water northwards? Matteo and his NAIF would surely love to bankroll…. ‘nation building infrastructure’, yes.

      • technerdx6000 3 years ago

        I live in North Queensland and it’s so damn sunny here that any technology other than solar makes absolutely zero sense

        • trackdaze 3 years ago

          Windy out in the table lands i hear.

          • technerdx6000 3 years ago

            Yeah, but thats Far North Queensland. Wind and Hydro makes more sense there because it rains heaps more in FNQ than NQ

  2. Trent Deverell 3 years ago

    Should we propose a name for such a NQ-plant….

    I propose the title …. Christenavan-A(dani)

    • Rod 3 years ago

      How about Dumbo the White Elephant or Orca the Stranded Whale.

    • Hettie 3 years ago

      Nah. Too long. I propose the title Stupid.

      • Geoff Roberts 3 years ago

        Not as much as you might think Hettie.

        Coal and gas exist, sometimes close to the power plant, as with most of our coal plants. Then the storage is virtually free as they can mine as fast as they can burn.

        With gas it’s not so simple, but in liquid form its relatively easy to store and ship. This gives you a lot of storage for either free or not much and you can cope with an extended wind drought or period of cloud.

        Battery storage is no doubts going to get less costly, though the life cycle costs of keeping the batteries maintained, (can Lithium batteries be usefully recycled?) are not yet well understood and depend how hard you drive the battery (somewhat like a gas turbine in that respect)

        There are times when the whole country is covered in cloud, and in any case the NEM only covers Western South Australia to Cairns, and large parts of inland SA, NSW and QLD are outside the present coverage of the grid.

        To extend the grid to cover these desert areas, with very little local demand, is a cost that needs to be covered. I think ESB is the best thing to come out of this year, for NEM and its stakeholders.

        There is no foreseeable way the NEM States can coordinate their planning as peers, and in any case apart from QLD and Tas the assets have been sold, and the networks are clumsily regulated.

        Under our Constitution and laws States have powers like setting RETs and competing with other states for investment in new things, while depending on laggard states to backup their renewable energy forays.

        This came unstuck in Sept 16 with the blackout, and the interconnectors are finite and unsuitable for providing inertia. Inertia is important safety mechanism preventing loss of life and property when short circuits and other faults occur.

        AEMO and SA community cooperated in a process to modify the rules so that a managed minimum amount of synchronous generation is available at all times.

        SA could have converted Norther PS to large synchronous condenser for not much. Now someone else is looking to build a new synchronous condenser nearby to the old site.

        This chaotic approach is not the way to get best reliability, price and missions outcome. ESB, we need to fall in behind it and support it.

        It can be refreshed and reformed from time to time, but it is at least a plausible way forward.

        • Hettie 3 years ago

          Geoff, the September blackout was caused by transmission pylons being blown down and then a chain reaction. As you almost certainly know, and if you don’t, you should.
          You should also know that WA has some very successful off grid solar, storage and backup generator supply to small isolated commuities, which could well be used as model for such communities in other states.
          You sound more and more like an apologist for fossil fuels.

          • Geoff Roberts 3 years ago

            Hi Hettie, I am ambivalent to source of power. But have deep professional experience with just about all.

            I of course am well aware of the Sept ’16 black event. I would use the word s “initiated by” rather than “caused by” the towers falling due to high wind was initiating event. The reasons the system did not go to island mode were numerous including insufficient inertia being online. The extended outage on Eyre Peninsula.
            was due to multiple failures in a fossil plant.

          • Joe 3 years ago

            Yes young Hettie, spot on again. SA is hit by a Tornado and knocks over 23 pylons and somehow it is all the fault of RE. We have had a number of blackouts here in NSW and we are ‘Black Coal’ to the eyeballs but never a bad word out of Two Tonguer Turnbull or his hand puppet Hungarian Joshie. Those WA Off-griders were featured on a recent ABC C story, trialled 12 months off grid…now its permanent!

          • Hettie 3 years ago

            Well, Joe, some of us not only try to keep up, but we try to call BS on those who don’t and those who try to defend the indefensible.
            After all, it’s not an important issue, is it?
            Just the survival of life on Earth.
            Insignificant compared to the political survival of a bunch of rich, lying fuckwits.

          • Joe 3 years ago

            Them’s fightin’ words, young Hettie. Stay the course, stay strong, yes.

          • Hettie 3 years ago


      • technerdx6000 3 years ago

        To answer your question Hettie based on the current SA big battery, total costs came to around $250/MWh installed.
        This would provide 400MWh of storage.
        As we see in SA this could be implemented in just mere months, whereas a coal plant will take 6+ years to build.
        In 6 years, who knows what battery storage costs will be. With the current trajectory, they could be well under $100/MWh installed. This would give us over 1GWh of storage.
        Along with all the capabilities that batteries have that coal doesn’t, this is a much better investment whether it’s built now or completed at the same time a coal powered station would take to be completed.

    • Ren Stimpy 3 years ago

      The slogan could be… Coaletariat of the world unite!

      (Sourced from the everything-centralised Soviet-era Coalunist Manifesto by Karbon Marx)

  3. Andy Saunders 3 years ago

    I don’t doubt that a coal plant would take 6+ years to commission, but gas plant is done much faster – roughly half that.

  4. Roger Franklin 3 years ago

    Ok – please correct me if I am wrong but Solar, Solar Thermal and Wind see to average out around say 10c per KW (approx) and that cost is dropping. Gas around 8.2c but the note says that at peak times this can be 2-3 times higher – so let’s average it at 15c per kw, Coal around 17c per kw and Coal with CCS 35.2c per kw. And the federal Coalition want to use tax payer money to build the most expensive option… That makes perfect logical sense!

    • Joe 3 years ago

      Coal at any cost makes perfect sense from The COALition. We have ‘Lump of Coal Scotty’ ( Morrison ) in Fed. Parliament and ‘Lump of Coal Anthony’ ( Roberts ) in NSW Parliament. The Libbies wherever they are are hypnotised by the electoral donations that the FF Lobbby throws at them. It’s as corrupt as it comes and our taxpayer hard earned is just chucked around like confetti at the Coalers.

  5. Ken Fabian 3 years ago

    The essential ingredient of this proposed coal power plant is rejection of climate science. I think this proposal isn’t even about energy security or costs, it is first and foremost a raised finger to those who are genuinely concerned about climate consequences.

    This coal plant is symbolic gesture by people who, in the face of uncomfortable and alarming knowledge have embraced ignorance and misunderstanding about climate as virtues: if they are not perpetrators of a multi-decade effort to associate climate responsibility and renewable energy with irrational extremism and mislead and misinform conservative Australians about the scientifically sound basis for it they are victims of it. They have been taught to be suspect of and to automatically reject arguments based on science based facts and reason and have embraced that misplaced defiance with gusto and pride.

    But, no matter how defiant they are the reality is the climate and emissions issue is never going to go away – not ever. The coal defenders can defy facts, logic and even economics to build a vanity coal plant – and call it, perhaps with deliberate irony, “low emissions coal” – but as climate consequences grow in frequency and intensity emissions will keep on coming back into the spotlight and only policy and technology that delivers a ramping pathway to low to below zero emissions can deliver enduring policy certainty.

    • Joe 3 years ago

      I saw a piece on Deutsche Welle ( Germany’s National Broadcaster ) in its coverage of COP23. The contrast between Delhi, India and Pittsburgh USA. Delhi is literally poisoning itself into an early grave with toxic air pollution. The former ‘steel city’ of Pittsburgh has undergone a remarkable transformation from its own dirty days ( like what Delhi is now experiencing ) of Steel and Coal into today’s high tech, clean living and embracing RE. The proof is all there for everyone to see.

    • Farmer Dave 3 years ago

      Great analysis, Ken. I’m sure you are right about the raised finger. The barriers to some kind of societal consensus on the need for urgent action are great, but we need to persist in trying to break them down through constructive and respectful dialogue.

  6. trackdaze 3 years ago

    Let me guess the Townsville bulletin is a Murdoch rag.

    • technerdx6000 3 years ago

      Sure is

  7. Ren Stimpy 3 years ago

    Good use of quotes – “high efficiency, low emissions”

    Probably could use a few more sets though – “””””high efficiency, low emissions””””” – to more appropriately highlight the obvious pisstake in the phrase being applied to any coal fired power station.

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