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Turnbull throws his weight behind coal power

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Malcolm Turnbull has sought advice on how to extend the life of a number of coal-fired power stations which are scheduled to close over coming decades.

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The advice, to be compiled by the Australian Energy Market Operator, comes amid confusion over the future of the Liddell power station in NSW.

Owner AGL told the stock market today it would close the Hunter Valley plant in 2022, reaffirming a decision announced in April 2015.

“AGL will continue to engage with governments, regulators and other stakeholders to deliver appropriate outcomes but notes that the company has made no commitment to sell the Liddell power station nor to extend its life beyond 2022,” the company said.

However, the prime minister said AGL had told him it was prepared to “discuss the sale of the power station to a responsible party”.

Turnbull said the government had been advised that after 2022, when the Liddell plant was scheduled to close, there would be a 1000MW gap in baseload, dispatchable power generation.

The Snowy Hydro 2.0 project would not be available in time to fill the gap.

“What are now doing is ensuring that we put in place all of the options that we can examine to make sure that that 1000 megawatt gap in dispatchable power is not realised,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

It was too early to speculate whether AGL, which would meet with the government next week, would be offered financial incentives to keep the Liddell plant running.

Turnbull said keeping Liddell open was one option, but “no doubt there are others”.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said another part of the solution lay in a “strategic reserve” of electricity which was estimated to cost $50 million a year to stave offload shedding.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce earlier said AGL was open to selling the plant in order to provide electricity to NSW residents and businesses until 2027.

Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon, whose seat is in the NSW Hunter Valley, accused Mr Turnbull of offering false hope.

“Liddell is almost 50-years-old; no-one would be happier than me as the local member to think that we could extend the life of Liddell but it’s not going to happen,” he said.

Nationals senator and former resources minister Matt Canavan predicts people would be lining up to buy the station.

Yesterday, AGL boss Andy Vesey and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott clashed on social media over the company’s approach to coal-fired generation.

Blackout threats: How the states are placed

MODELLING shows the highest risk of four-hour blackouts over the next 10 years is in South Australia and Victoria this coming summer.

THE Australian Energy Market Operator says SA and Victoria are addressing this but warns a slower-than-expected rollout of renewable energy or lower yields of power could still lead to blackouts.

THE SA government has an energy plan which includes extra diesel generation and battery storage, as well as paying customers to reduce their power use just before or during shortfalls.

THE Victorian government is rolling out a large-scale storage plan which will boost storage capacity in Victoria to 100MW by the end of 2018.

AEMO will also pay for extra generation capacity to be on stand-by during summer – such as backup diesel generators of business – and for power users to volunteer to use less electricity during peak demand times.

IN Queensland and Tasmania there is “no material risk” of blackouts across the decade.

THE blackout risk in NSW will rise after AGL’s Liddell power station in the Hunter Valley closes in 2022.

AEMO prefers keeping existing power stations open longer or upgrading them over building new plants due to the tight timing and need to avoid pouring money into generators with uncertain long-term viability.

MALCOLM Turnbull will hold talks with AGL next week about keeping Liddell open for about five years beyond 2022, while the Snowy Hydro 2.0 project is completed.

AN extra 1000MW of power is needed to cover Liddell’s closure, while another 1000MW is needed to be kept on stand-by to cover peak demand spikes in coming summers.

IN the long-term, new investment in power generation is needed. Investors want incentives or price signals, such as a clean energy target.

THE government also needs to meet its promise to cut emissions to 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

– AAP

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