NSW power plants – will they be coal or gas?

November 2, 2009 at 6:12 am Leave a comment


Will the two new power stations in New South Wales (NSW) be coal or gas? The NSW government says it has a “fuel neutral policy”.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they aim to “neutralise” fossil-fuel use. Rather it means they will allow private energy companies to make the decision. It means coal is in.

The two new power stations have been flagged as either “coal or gas”. A recent report in the Sydney Morning Herald gave the impression that NSW Premier Nathan Rees had ruled out the more carbon intensive coal option.

The SMH even reported that Rees had written to energy minister John Robertson to ask him to develop a plan for a “green power revolution”. Were this true then gas would be off the agenda too and the government would invest in available solar thermal and wind power energy generation.

But a recent exchange in the NSW parliament between Greens MLC John Kaye and Robertson reveals the ALP government won’t stand in the way of more coal-fired plants.

It also demonstrates how the SMH uncritically reported the government’s spin as fact and helped generate confusion about this — absolutely terrible, lazy, purile “journalism”.

Robertson claimed the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) would encourage the private companies (who both have heavy investments in coal) to make the plants gas-fired.

However, the CPRS gives billions in compensation to coal-fired energy. New coal-fired power stations would qualify for the free loot. Plus, the ready availability of coal in the Lithgow area and the Hunter Valley make coal the most “economical” choice — even though it costs the planet.

NASA climate scientist James Hansen has called coal “the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet”.

He also pointed out: “The Australian government was elected on a platform of solving the climate problem, but then, with the help of industry, it set emission targets so high as to guarantee untold disasters for the young, let alone the unborn. These governments are not green. They are black – coal black.”

The NSW ALP government’s “green energy revolution” is “coal black” too.

See below for the parliamentary text, posted to the Grassroots Climate Oz list on November 2 by Greenpeace Australia’s Julian Vincent. Relevant statements from Robertson are bold and italicised.

*****

Dr JOHN KAYE:
“My question is directed to the Minister for Energy. Has the Minister received a letter from the Premier requesting that he “develop a comprehensive energy policy with a strong emphasis on clean energy”? Can the Minister confirm that either or both of the new baseload power generator proposals at Mount Piper and Bayswater B are now to be restricted to be gas-fired only and not coal?”

The Hon. JOHN ROBERTSON:
“It is true; the Premier did write to me about a clean energy policy. I can advise the House — I do not think it is a State secret because it was in the Sydney Morning Herald — that the Premier had written asking me to develop a clean energy policy.

It is worth my making the point that this government is the first in the country to put the portfolios of energy and climate change and the environment into one office. That presents significant opportunities to develop policies that deal with, particularly, clean energy and how we deal with energy in an environment where we will operate with a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. We will see a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme introduced at some point, and we will see climate change continue to have an impact.

As part of the government’s reform strategy, a number of generation
development sites identified by the existing government-owned generators will be made available to the private sector. The private sector, not the government, will decide where new investment in generation will occur and what fuel will be used for that generation.

The following sites have been identified as gas only: Bamarang, Marulan and Tomago. The State has a fuel neutral policy for Bayswater B in the Upper Hunter and Mount Piper 3 and 4 in the Central West. Ultimately, any private-sector investors that make a decision about fuel type and technology must do so in the knowledge that any new power station will be participating in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

What I will say is that gas is obviously a more competitive source of fuel for a prospective power station due to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme — which is another reason why the government supports it.”

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Entry filed under: coal-fired power station, gas-fired power station, greenwashing, John Kaye, John Robertson, shit journalism.

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