Reboot of SA coal plant like "restarting whaling" for lamp fuel | RenewEconomy

Reboot of SA coal plant like “restarting whaling” for lamp fuel

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South Australia’s energy minister has slammed Coalition’s proposed reboot of Northern coal-power plant as “uninformed and baffling.”

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The proposed reboot of South Australia’s retired Northern coal-power plant as a federal government-owned generation asset has been slammed as “uninformed and baffling” by the state government, and likened to “restarting the whaling industry” to provide fuel for street lamps.


The policy, proposed by federal resources minister Matt Canavan, was aired on Friday by South Australia’s Liberal energy spokesperson, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, in The Advertiser newspaper.

South Australian energy minister Tom Koutsantonis said the idea, as well as being “astounding”, betrayed the Coalition’s fundamental lack of understanding of the energy market, considering the Northern Power Station had been closed by its private operators in May on commercial grounds.

Koutsantonis also pointed out that the ageing facility – which is now owned by Flinders Power – was privatised by the Liberal Party in 1999.

To be fair to van Holst Pellekanan and Canavan, however, the idea that coal is somehow vital to the smooth running of South Australia’s grid is not unique to them.

Just last week, in an opinion piece written for the Australian Financial Review, the federal minister for industry, science and innovation, Greg Hunt, said a coal-fired generator could have kept the state’s lights on during the “system black” event two weeks ago, and avoided much of the fallout.

This is not what many analysts and energy industry experts are saying about South Australia’s system-wide blackout. But even if it was, Koutsantonis notes it would likely take more than a year in mining and recommissioning work before the plant would be ready to generate electricity.

“It is astounding that the Liberal Party is now calling for a power station, that they privatised, to be purchased by the state government and reopened.

Koutsantonis – who has been busily defending his government’s ambitious renewables policies since the “system black” event that was triggered by a freak storm – urged the state Liberal party to advocate for reform of the National Electricity Market that better integrated renewable energy, rather than looking to the past for solutions.

“Energy experts, and indeed the Federal Liberal Government, agree and acknowledge that renewable energy is the future of the National Electricity Market,” he said.

“This is a thought bubble from Mr Pellekaan and Mr Marshall that reveals the Liberal policy is a return to inefficient, dirty coal-fired power for South Australia.

“They are so addicted to coal that they are willing to use taxpayer money to subsidise it so that this industry, which is in rapid decline around the country, can continue to operate,” he said.

“This policy is akin to announcing the Liberals would restart the whaling industry to light our street lamps – the Liberals want to return to a previous century rather than prepare our state and our economy for the future.”

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  1. Brunel 4 years ago

    So now the LNP says it is ok for government to own infrastructure?

    Awesome. Hope the state government buys 51% of MEL airport soon and ends the rip off.

    • lin 4 years ago

      I am sure the LNP would be very happy for the government to own infrastructure if it was an efficient conduit for making their friends rich at taxpayer’s expense, just like they are happy to sell taxpayer owned infrastructure to make their friends rich at taxpayer expense. The one consistent aspect of LNP governance is the movement of money from taxpayers to the pockets of their friends.
      The Victorian experience is that they are also happy to sign dodgy side letters with contractors to screw taxpayers. Just lucky they write the laws, or this sort of thing would get them put in jail.

  2. Gramus 4 years ago

    South Australia has a generation resource adequacy problem, That is an objective fact.
    Whether re-opening Northern is the best way to deal with it as debatable, but it is time that we are all honest about the need for more dispatchable generation in the SA pool (or perhaps another inter-connector to NSW)

    • Gary Rowbottom 4 years ago

      Say something like a Concentrating Solar Thermal plant with storage, like we’ve been asking for – for about 5 years. Or better a small network of them, like Solar Reserve outlined plans for in their recent visit to Australia.

      • Gyrogordini 4 years ago

        Absolutely, Gary. This technology exists, works and is sadly lacking on the COALition’s horizon. Bring it on, S.A.!

  3. DogzOwn 4 years ago

    If mining and rail freight of brown coal from Leigh Creek is no longer a goer, “obviously it makes sense” to rail freight such a bulky, low energy, spontaneously combusting brown coal from La Trobe Valley.Then any surplus power in SA can be interconnected back to VIC. To make sure with Matt Canavan, this is joking.

  4. onesecond 4 years ago

    “This policy is akin to announcing the Liberals would restart the whaling industry to light our street lamps – the Liberals want to return to a previous century rather than prepare our state and our economy for the future.”
    That quote really captures it best. Denmark and Germany have the most stable grids and the most secure electricity supply in the world with high and ever growing portions of wind and solar. Are Australians really to dumb to do that and have to stick to digging harmful dirt out of the ground forever? Can’t believe that.

    • Rod 4 years ago

      The problem is we have politicians lying to support their FF donors and not being held to account by the popular press.
      If you (and the press) keep telling the same lies your average voter will believe it or is too lazy to seek the truth.

  5. Ray Miller 4 years ago

    The LNP is intermittent no other word describes them. At least renewables are variable and predictable not so the LNP.

  6. Tomfoolery 4 years ago

    The LNP energy policy landscape is like a barren dystopian wasteland, where Liberal minister stumble over themselves in their quest to fall at the feet of the dying coal industry in order to save it from its inevitable demise.

  7. Radbug 4 years ago

    It is easy to prosper, just focus fastidiously upon the status quo. Liberals are such people, and to such people, the thought that the status quo is shifting is deeply troubling, because, after so many years of obsessing upon the here and now, they feel that they no longer know which way is up. It is a characteristic of this “nation”. It has been a protected colony of one WASP Great & Powerful Friend or other for so long that its Policy Elite has never had to develop the ability to make strategy for itself, and so, it has become pathologically fearful of change.

  8. solarguy 4 years ago

    The collective LNP must have Aspergers.

    • shinytop 4 years ago


      • solarguy 4 years ago

        And Latent Nuclear Perversion disorder.

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