Lake Council looks to coal-free future

Lake Macquarie City Council can see an end to the city’s coal-fired power stations and coal mines, but the industries beg to differ and expect to be around for a long time.

A council report that looks ahead to 2030 said the industries faced ‘‘dramatic changes’’ from government responses to climate change and increasing energy prices. ‘‘Power generation and coalmining occupy considerable areas of land in Lake Macquarie,’’ the report said.

The report, prepared by council staff, says the land should be rehabilitated or used for a purpose that meets community objectives, when the industries end.

The state-owned Eraring Power Station, in west Lake Macquarie, is undergoing a $600million upgrade that will extend its life to 2032.

In its latest sustainability report, Eraring said the project would ‘‘help support future energy security in NSW’’.

But it conceded there was ‘‘uncertainty surrounding future carbon obligations’’.

‘‘It is expected that new policies and legislation will emerge over the next year that will seek to limit greenhouse gas emissions and lead to increased abatement costs for large emitters like Eraring Energy,’’ the report said.

Lake Macquarie MP and mayor Greg Piper said the state government should ensure ‘‘full value’’ is achieved from the $600million investment.

‘‘But that should be based on a transition to cleaner fuels,’’ Cr Piper said.

‘‘I do believe we should be phasing out coal for our own energy production.’’

Cr Piper said the state government should embrace gas as an energy source.

‘‘But while the world is dependent on coal, we should be using our reasonably accessible underground coal reserves,’’ he said.

‘‘It’d be naive to say if we get out of the coal industry, countries won’t just source coal from somewhere else.’’

Cr Piper said the government should invest more in cleaner, renewable technology.

‘‘Ultimately this area will be depleted of coal and we’ve got to talk about what the future is when coal mines go,’’ he said.

‘‘The land must be remediated or better deployed.’’

Coal viable source of energy for some time

LAKE Macquarie’s dominant coalminer Centennial Coal expects to continue operating in the area for many years, despite climate change.

Company general manager northern operations Steve Bracken said coalmining would continue.

‘‘There are some groups who would like to see the coal industry stop producing coal tomorrow, but no one has put forward any viable alternatives,’’ Mr Bracken said.

‘‘Renewables are all very good, but they cannot produce the amount of electricity we need to power industry and residential areas.’’

Mr Bracken did not think nuclear energy was on the government’s planning horizon.

Most coal from Centennial mines in the area was supplied to nearby power stations.

‘‘There’s been mining in this area for well over 100 years and we will see it continue for a long time,’’ Mr Bracken said.

‘‘The power stations were built around the lake because there’s coal reserves here and they use the lake’s water for cooling.’’

Mr Bracken did not believe coal-fired power stations would be phased out any time soon.

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