Liddell Power Station is in the middle of a fierce battle over the future of Australia’s electricity supply, while its owner AGL is adamant that it is getting out of coal.
Of Australia’s remaining 23 coal-fired power stations, the Liddell plant – which is between Muswellbrook and Singleton – is the next slated to close, a federal government report said.
Ten coal-fired power plants have closed in Australia since 2012, including Munmorah on the Central Coast’s northern end.
As residents brace for a 20 per cent rise in electricity prices this financial year, the Turnbull government is under pressure to secure the country’s energy future.
The Coalition is considering using taxpayers’ money to help build new, more efficient coal-fired plants, while Labor is backing renewable energy, battery storage and gas as a transition fuel.
Renewables do benefit from government energy subsidies, which are aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
AGL will close its Liddell plant in 2022 and its Bayswater plant in 2035.
The company said it would “not build, finance or acquire new conventional coal-fired power stations”.
“Instead, our business will prioritise investment in renewables and complementary near-zero emission technologies,” it said.
AGL has examined carbon capture technology.
“We’ve had a look at clean coal and have a research site with the CSIRO at one of our coal-fired plants, so we could find out whether the theory stacks up in practice,” it said.
“So far, the science does, but the economics doesn’t.”
The conditions the company requires to “responsibly invest in something like carbon capture and storage or clean coal just aren’t there right now”.
“We have a responsibility to invest in the lowest cost, low emissions technologies, like renewables.”
AGL research found that there were “some risks associated with ruling out further investment in coal”, but “bigger risks in sticking with it”.
“We also found that there are overwhelming opportunities in clean energy and we support Australia’s international commitments to cut back on carbon emissions.
“We’ve looked ahead, read the writing on the wall and developed an orderly plan to get out of coal.”
AGL said zero emissions energy, like wind and solar and lower emissions sources like gas, would “replace coal over time”.
“Energy storage options like batteries will be really important because, once we can store renewable energy for longer, we will be able to use it whenever we need it.”
AGL has about 600 employees at Liddell and Bayswater.
It committed to work with “employees, industry and government... as our energy system is modernised”.