COAL BACK ON FRONT BURNER Feds open to en­ergy so­lu­tions

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - DOMANII CAMERON domanii. cameron@ news. com. au

A FED­ERAL front­bencher has back­flipped on his claims the Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment is not con­sid­er­ing fund­ing a new coal- fired baseload power sta­tion in the North, in­stead re­fus­ing to rule out the pos­si­bil­ity of the new in­fra­struc­ture.

As­sis­tant Min­is­ter for In­dus­try, In­no­va­tion and Science, Craig Laundy, who de­nied there was a divi­sion within the party over coal- fired power plants, yes­ter­day said the gov­ern­ment re­mained “tech­no­log­i­cally neu­tral”.

“There is no divi­sion,” he said. “While there are no spe­cific plans for new coal- fired power plants the Gov­ern­ment re­mains tech­no­log­i­cally neu­tral – we would sup­port tech­nol­ogy that keeps the lights on at an af­ford­able price and also low­ers emis­sions.”

It comes af­ter the front­bencher told Sky News on July 11 that the Gov­ern­ment was not con­sid­er­ing new coal- fired power sta­tions.

Mr Laundy said he was “tech­nol­ogy ag­nos­tic”, as was the Gov­ern­ment.

“Min­is­ter ( Josh) Fry­den­berg ad­dressed this point per­fectly this ( yes­ter­day) morn­ing on ABC with Fran Kelly; he stated; “We’ve asked the Aus­tralian En­ergy Mar­ket Op­er­a­tor to tell us how much dis­patch­able power is needed. If a re­verse auc­tion is one means to en­sure that power is into the sys­tem, and if that’s coal, or if that’s gas, or if that’s re­new­ables with stor­age, or a com­bi­na­tion of the above, then we will be pre­pared to sup­port it’,” he said. “We agree en­tirely with this ap­proach.”

Re­sources Min­is­ter Matt Cana­van, who also de­nied there was a divi­sion in the Coali­tion over the is­sue, said the Gov­ern­ment was open to the pos­si­bil­ity of a new coal- fired power plant in Aus­tralia and North Queens­land.

“The Prime Min­is­ter was very ex­plicit, he has said we are very open to coal,” he said.

“The fact is that there’s not a spe­cific pro­posal on the ta­ble right now.

“There’s no doubt that we have a state La­bor Gov­ern­ment who won’t even con­sider it, it does ward peo­ple off.”

Mr Cana­van said there was also the pos­si­bil­ity of retrofitting ex­ist­ing coal plants.

“We could look at in­stalling the lat­est boiler or tur­bine tech­nolo­gies on to those ex­ist­ing plants,” he said. “But there’s noth­ing in North Queens­land ( to retro­fit) – we’re talk­ing about build­ing a new one.”

En­vi­ron­ment and En­ergy Min­is­ter Josh Fry­den­berg said the Gov­ern­ment was tech­nol­ogy neu­tral and saw a vi­tal role for coal to­day and well into the fu­ture.

“We are look­ing for the most cost- ef­fec­tive sources whether that be clean coal, re­new­ables with stor­age, gas or hy­dro,” he said. “The Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment’s pri­or­ity is af­ford­able and reli­able en­ergy for Aus­tralian house­holds and busi­nesses, while meet­ing our in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments. Our ap­proach is tech­nolog­y­neu­tral and non- ide­o­log­i­cal – we are guided by engi­neer­ing and eco­nom­ics.”

Genex man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Michael Ad­di­son, whose com­pany has pro­posed a largescale so­lar and hy­dro project at Kid­ston, said that while a new coal- fired baseload power sta­tion was “in­cred­i­bly ex­pen­sive,” Queens­land could “mix them to­gether”.

“Coal has been the bedrock of Aus­tralia’s en­ergy sys­tem,” he said. “So­lar and wind is not baseload power, the only thing you can re­place coal with is gas. I think what you’ll find is there will be re­luc­tance to in­vest in new coal- fired power sta­tions.

“There would have to be a drift to­wards some other al­ter­na­tives like gas tur­bines and other re­new­ables.”

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