THE NSW Government has approved a $200 million upgrade of Bayswater power station without tougher air emission controls after owner AGL argued the closure of its Liddell power station in 2022 will significantly improve Upper Hunter air quality.
The government announced the approval on Friday in a short statement acknowledging most of the community submissions raised concerns about air quality.
AGL will replace and upgrade three turbines on the four generating units and increase the rated capacity in each unit by 25 megawatts to 685 megawatts. The upgrade is part of AGL’s plan to transition from coal-fired power to renewables, and was announced as the company was strongly criticised by the Federal Government over the Liddell closure.
The Bayswater upgrade will take its capacity to 2640 megawatts of power, making it a “significant contributor to the state’s energy supply”, a Department of Planning statement said.
“Bayswater is Australia’s second-largest coal-fired power station producing enough energy to power two million homes,” the department said.
But environment and community groups criticised the fast-tracked process for approving the upgrade and said the department should have used the opportunity to require AGL to install air emission controls that are used in power stations overseas. Bayswater is scheduled to remain open until 2035.
“This major investment in Bayswater suggests that it will be operated for many years, so should be required to install modern pollution control technologies at the same time so the health burden does not continue for years,” public health lecturer Dr Ben Ewald said.
“Power stations overseas are obliged to use post combustion desulphurisation to control sulphur dioxide, and catalytic converters to control oxides of nitrogen. We would not allow cars with the same pollution as in the 1980s, so why would we put up with it from power stations? An efficiency improvement is a good thing, but must come with pollution controls.”
An environmental impact statement prepared by consultants for AGL acknowledged the power stations were major contributors to fine particle emissions in the Upper Hunter, but said they remained within their operating licences.
The Bayswater upgrade’s completion coincided with the Liddell closure which would reduce Liddell’s emissions to zero, the EIS said.
“With Liddell emissions reducing to zero, it is estimated that the Upper Hunter airshed power station particulate emissions will reduce reduce by 30-50 per cent, and oxides of nitrogen and sulphur dioxide by about 30 per cent.
“This will result in significant overall net improvements in the Upper Hunter ambient air quality.”
The EIS noted the $200 million upgrade did not include any other changes to Bayswater.
There would be a “marginal decrease” in coal consumption at the power station because of the turbine efficiency improvements.
In its statement the NSW Government said the work, which is expected to provide jobs for 90 people, will ensure the station’s “safe, reliable and efficient operation until its scheduled closure in 2035”.