Malcolm Turnbull has endorsed plans for the construction of new coal-fired power plant in Australia, telling reporters after the party-room vote on his proposed National Energy Guarantee that his government welcomed any and all investment in new power generation.
The comments follow a report in The Australian on Tuesday that BRW Rich Lister Trevor St Baker would “push forward” with plans to build a new coal-fired power station if the NEG was legislated.
St Baker, who is a prominent investor in clean tech, as well as chairman of Vales Point-owner Delta Electricity, reportedly believes he can build a 1000MW coal plant for $2.5 billion in under five years, using existing infrastructure.
“The ACCC’s recommendation will nicely complement the NEG,” St Baker told the paper. “We need a Hazelwood replacement and there are competing parties wanting to work with me in different capacities to bid — on open competitive equal terms against all other options — to offer a Hazelwood replacement as a HELE (high-efficiency, low-emissions) plant.
“Alternatively we could bid in NSW for an 800MW HELE plant at Vales Point … In NSW it’s critically needed before Liddell closes,” he said.
Asked in a press conference on Tuesday if his government supported the St Baker-led push for new coal power in Australia, Turnbull said – “certainly.”
“We welcome more generation, particularly more dispatchable generation, more… firmed or baseload generation. And of course a coal-fired power station, HELE plant would meet that description.”
Turnbull said the ACCC recommendation, which he stressed was “technology agnostic,” was a plan to “provide support” to proposals for new energy generation, where off-take contracts and equity investors fell short.
“And we intend to implement this,” he said.
But ever since the idea was put forward as one of the key ACCC recommendations, it has been broadly interpreted as the proverbial spoonful of sugar, necessary to get the Coalition’s coal hopefuls and climate deniers to swallow the NEG.
And it appears to have worked.
Never mind that almost everyone with any skin in the energy game – including Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott – says building new coal generators in Australia just won’t happen.
They say this not only because no one in their right mind (or in the absence of government funding) would invest in such an outdated and expensive generation source, but also because doing so would be madness – economic and environmental – in the current carbon- restrained climate.
But, as Giles Parkinson points out, that government tender could be framed in such a way that rule out competing technologies, and may include government guarantees against any further emissions reductions – something that government have been prepared to do in the past.
Turnbull seems also to have abandoned all pretense that climate change is something he takes at all seriously.
When a reporter asked the PM if he was prepared to fight the Labor opposition – and the Labor states – over the need to raise Australia’s pathetically low emissions reduction target, his answer left no doubt of his new political position.
“Absolutely… Absolutely. We should legislate the 26 per cent target, and then if Labor wants to go to the next election and argue for a higher target, they should do so. And we’ll gladly have that debate with them, because if you were to have a higher target than 26 per cent it would increase costs on consumers.”