THERE was a time when Vales Point power station was the largest power station operating in Australia, with the combined capacity of its A and B stations sitting on 2195 megawatt hours.
That was back in 1978 when B station’s two new 660 megawatt units were added to the existing A station units which had been operating at the site since the 1960s. For a long time Vales Point’s A station had the highest capacity of any NSW power station.
Vales Point is the power station that launched three coal mines close by: Chain Valley Colliery, Newvale No. 2 Colliery and Wyee State mine. The old A station’s boilers and buildings were demolished between 2011 and 2014, years after the turbines were removed.
By 2015 the NSW government severed its long history with Vales Point by selling off B station to Sunset Power International headed by Trevor St Baker.
The headline sale price was famously $1 million, although Delta argues the actual price was more like $100 million because of employee entitlements, licence fees, decommissioning commitments and start-up capital.
By 2017 the $1 million purchase looked like being the sale of the century, with Vales Point valued at $730 million based on soaring electricity prices and projections into the future for the life of the station. Its expected closure date is 2029.
But Trevor St Baker on Friday said he thought there was a lot more life in the station that used to power the state, and announced Delta Electricity was looking at the feasibility of keeping it operating until 2049. The proposal comes only days after new federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor threatened to “force” power companies to keep their ageing coal-fired power stations open, although Delta said it has been thinking about extending Vales Point’s life for some time. It also said if the federal government proposed funding, subsidies or loans to keep Vales Point operating, the company would take up the offer.
Energy analysts and academics are concerned about any suggestions that public funds could be used to prop up coal-fired power stations while the cost of renewable energy keeps going down. They are also concerned that carbon emissions and carbon risk seem to be absent from much current debate.