Snowy Hydro money should go to new power station

CLOSING: AGL plans to close Liddell power station and National Party MP Michael Johnsen is calling for a new coal-fired power station to replace its capacity. Picture: Janie Barrett
CLOSING: AGL plans to close Liddell power station and National Party MP Michael Johnsen is calling for a new coal-fired power station to replace its capacity. Picture: Janie Barrett

MONEY from the state government’s $4-billion sale of its stake in Snowy Hydro should go towards a new coal-fired power station in the Hunter region, Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen said on Friday.

The National Party MP was commenting on news that broke late on Thursday that the federal government was buying the NSW and Victorian governments out of their shares in Snowy Hydro in a $6-billion deal that would see NSW receive $4.15 billion and NSW $2.07 billion.

As part of the deal, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said that all of the proceeds from the sale would be spent in regional NSW, a pledge that Mr Johnsen said on Friday he was confident would be fulfilled.

“We need more baseload power in NSW and the new generation high energy low emissions (HELE) technology coal-fired power station is ready to be built,” Mr Johnsen said.

“We have the infrastructure, the need and the expertise, and now we have the funds.”

Although Mr Johnsen said he believed his call was commonsense, the coal industry is facing an international backlash because of the role that fossil fuel combustion plays in raising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

Hunter MP and Labor front-bencher Joel Fitzgibbon has repeatedly clashed with Mr Johnsen over coal policy.

Last year he told the Newcastle Herald: “The market has decided – no more coal-fired power stations will be built in the Hunter, NSW or Australia. It’s not for governments to decide that, they [the power companies] are making that decision already.”

Environmental groups would also oppose any moves to build a new coal-fired power station.

Mr Johnsen said that despite the rapidly changing nature of the electricity market – and improvements in renewable technology – he still believed that baseload power was needed to drive the system.

He said the South Australian battery farm built by Tesla proved his point.

He said the battery farm cost something like $100 million, yet even with a 100-megawatt capacity, all it was capable of doing was pouring power into the South Australian grid for 15 minutes.

A baseload power station such as Bayswater was capable of providing more than 20 times that amount of electricity, around the clock.

“The South Australian battery is just a massive marketing ploy by Elon Musk,” Mr Johnsen said.

COAL FAN: Michael Johnsen. Picture: Muswellbrook Chronicle.

COAL FAN: Michael Johnsen. Picture: Muswellbrook Chronicle.

He said he was not tied to any one form of energy but believed coal-fired power was the only “reality” that Australia had when generating baseload electricity.

He said renewable power could produce some electricity, but without a baseload “engine” the system would not operate properly.

He said an HELE power station of about the same size as Bayswater could be built for about $2 billion.

Mr Johnsen said “political will” was the only thing stopping a HELE power station being built.

The federal government announced its plan to take complete control of Snowy Hydro as part of its push to construct the Snowy Mountains Scheme 2.0, which is designed to add 2000 megawatts of renewable power to the scheme’s existing capacity of 5500 megawatts.

Pumped hydro electricity works by using electric power – usually overnight when demand is low and prices are cheaper – to pump water uphill to release it to generate electricity at times of peak demand. It therefore uses more power than it generates, relying on the price differences between the power it uses, and the power it generates, to be viable.

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