Quiet Achiever: While PM Keeps Talking About Gas, Coal Just Keeps On Powering Australia

The Federal Coalition’s ‘plan’ to power Australia with gas-fired power plants it has yet to build, with gas supplies it does not have sounds more like palliative care than a cure for its self-inflicted power pricing and supply calamity.

Having wrecked our once reliable grid by subsidising chaotically intermittent wind and solar, it seems it’s time to resuscitate the hopes of dispatchable power plants. It’s a bit like choking the patient, and then putting them on a ventilator.

The junior Coalition partner, the Nationals – who remain a force to be reckoned with in regional NSW and Queensland, where numerous coal mines and coal-fired power plants still operate – are less than amused that PM, Scott Morrison and Energy Minister, Angus Taylor are talking up a future for gas-fired plants, when the country has been scrounging for gas for domestic purposes over the last decade – thanks to the several States that have banned the exploitation of gas and even exploration for it.

Assuming the Feds can find the gas and get the States to allow them to get it out of ground, it won’t be fuelling efficient Combined Cycle Gas Turbines. Instead, it will be chewed up by a few new Open Cycle Gas Turbines (fast-start ‘peakers’) and dozens of Wartsila 50DF reciprocating engines with a capacity of 18MW each (see above).

The key benefits of using what are giant ship engines, is that they can run on either gas, diesel or bunker fuel – and be fired up to reach their peak load within about five minutes. Ideal for responding to routine wind and solar power output collapses of the kind that have plagued South Australia for years, and that now threaten the entire Eastern Grid.

Of course, the only reason Australia has been reduced to importing dozens of Finnish built ship engines is the market chaos that has been delivered by the Federal government’s Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target.

A flurry of criticism from the Nationals, among others, followed the PM’s claim that ‘gas will save us’, after which he was forced to back-pedal and acknowledge the critical importance of coal-fired power.

Nationals arc up over future of coal
The Australian
Geoff Chambers
16 September 2020

Scott Morrison’s national gas plan and push to fast-track a new gas-fired power station in the NSW Hunter Valley has sparked unrest among Nationals MPs, who are demanding coal not be dropped from the government’s long-term energy blueprint.

The Prime Minister said on Tuesday that coal would remain a critical energy source for decades to come but stressed the urgency of bringing on 1000MW of dis­patchable power to replace the Liddell coal power plant by the summer of 2023-24.

The Australian understands the government backs a proposed Snowy Hydro gas-fired “peaker’’ plant — to run only when there is peak demand — because it could be put in place in 18-24 months compared with a coal-fired power station, which would likely face lengthy approvals delays.

“We have to be practical,’’ Mr Morrison said. “When we deliver this dispatchable energy to support the grid, it’s got to be things that actually turn up. I’m not interested in having a 10-year debate with people about getting an approval­ for a project that may never happen.

“I want to focus on something that will happen. And we know that we can get something up here in Newcastle with a gas-fired plant. And we know we can get support for that. We know we can make that happen. So we have to dwell in the realm of reality.”

Former resources minister Matt Canavan said the Nationals had formed a Coalition with Mr Morrison on the “basis that coal would be treated the same as all other energy sources”.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to build a gas-fired power plant in a state that imports more than 90 per cent of its gas and in the middle of the world’s greatest thermal­ coal basin,” Senator Canavan told The Australian.

The central Queensland senat­or, who led the successful Coali­tion marginal seat campaign credited with Labor’s dismal election result in Queensland, said in addition to carbon capture and storage he wanted the government to back high-efficiency, low-emission coal plants.

ALP-National-Platform (PDF)

Energy Minister Angus Taylor is preparing to release the government’s technology investment roadmap before the October 6 budget, prioritising energy tech­nol­ogies for governments and the private sector and setting up the nation’s long-term emissions strategy.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt said if CCS technology were effect­ive and commercially viable, there would be “more coal-fired power stations”. The central Queensland MP said HELE coal-fired power stations combined with CCS would cut emissions by 90 per cent. “It’s reliable, it’s available, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Mr Pitt said.

The architect of the Federal government’s gas plan, former Dow Chemical chief Andrew Liveris, has said gas was integral to ensuring a low or no emission future and to allow Australia to meet its Paris targets.

“We do have to have a future of net-zero and a future that minimises carbon. We need a transition in an affordable way,” he said. “You can’t get 100% of renewables at a reliable price.”

Mr Liveris, speaking on Radio National on Wednesday, said Australia had significant amounts of gas it wasn’t bringing to market and switching over to gas from coal could see emissions intensity cut by 40 per cent.

“Our consumers are paying higher prices than they are in Tokyo, that’s a travesty,” he said.

“The transition pathway has to be technology and fact-based not emotion-based, we’ve got to tip the carbon out of the air you’ve got to get it out of the smokestacks.”

He said criticism of the government’s plan as interventionist misunderstood the role of the state in creating markets. “Governments function when they create frameworks and rules to allow markets to function, You don’t have a travel business without airports,” he said.

“You’ve got to create the framework to create the mechanism for markets to form, we have failed to create that mechanism until yesterday.”

Mr Liveris will speak further on the plan at the National Press Club on Wednesday.

Atlassian co-CEO and co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes says Mr Morrison’s gas plan would only go to further distorting the energy market and goes against expert advice.

He said the suggestion the government would finance gas and energy projects if the market failed to act would only reinforce inaction. “Most people who were going to do something are going to sit aside saying I’m going to wait for the government,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.

“If you want to create market confusion that’s the best way to do it.

“This intervention will drive up energy prices for consumers. It will lock in that gas plant for another 40 years. This is not the cheapest long term plan for our grid at all.”

Mr Cannon-Brookes’ remarks come after he yesterday said he would consider developing an option to replace the aging Liddel coal-fired power station in NSW.

The software billionaire has already worked on several energy projects including a major battery storage plant in South Australia.

“Parts of this bundle are good, the extra transmission will bring on far more renewables to our grid in a stable and sensitive way,” he said. “We need to be clear about what we are trying to solve, I don’t think the solution is gas. The chief scientist has been very clear we need to keep the existing gas generation we have running for their lives. He is absolutely against any new gas extraction as being incompatible with our Paris emission goals.”

In a major pre-budget speech delivered in Newcastle on ­Tuesday, Mr Morrison said “you ­cannot talk about electricity gener­ation and ignore coal”.

“For decades, coal-fired generation has been a source of competitive strength for our economy. Reliable, low-cost energy. This is still true.

“Coal will continue to play an important role in our economy for decades to come. With new technologies such as carbon capture and storage continuing to improve, it will have an even longer life, not just here in Australia, but in our export markets as well … that means jobs.”

His gas plan also highlighted divisions inside the ALP, with opposition climate change spokesman Mark Butler, who has clashed with Joel Fitzgibbon over Labor’s approach to a gas-led COVID-19 recovery, describing the government’s plan as “heavy on spin”.

Mr Fitzgibbon, Labor’s resources spokesman, claimed the government’s decision to build a gas power plant in the Hunter as his plan and backed the underwriting of long-term gas supply contracts, allowing money to be raised on the markets to “bring certainty”.
The Australian

‘Climate change zealots’ are spooking politicians about energy plans
Sky News
Alan Jones and Matt Canavan
16 September 2020

Sky News host Alan Jones says Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is correct in saying Australia needs cheap and reliable energy plans, however he is spooked by the Left and their opinions surrounding renewable energy.

“(The Labor Party) don’t know where they stand on energy policy because they don’t know where they stand on climate change, carbon dioxide or most importantly, coal fired power,” Mr Jones said.

“Enter Scott Morrison, he is talking about cheap and reliable energy.

“He says without a future high-tech manufacturing base there can be no jobs growth, all of that’s correct.

“But then he too … is spooked by the left, by the climate change renewable energy zealots.

“On the one hand Scott Morrison keeps saying coal is part of the plan, but then talks about a Hunter Valley gas power-plant in New South Wales.”

Mr Jones spoke with Nationals Senator Matt Canavan, who said the plan to have a gas power-plant in New South Wales wouldn’t work.

“I don’t think it will because of the real-world evidence we see before us,” Mr Canavan said.

“We must get our energy prices down … we’ve got no hope of bringing manufacturing back to this country unless we do.

“But we’ve got to use the natural resources that we are blessed with.”
Sky News


Alan Jones: Now, look, the Labor Party are at it again. They don’t know where they stand on energy policy because they don’t know where they stand on climate change, carbon dioxide or, most importantly, coal-fired power.

Anthony Albanese, he’s trying to say he’ll go to the next election without specific climate change targets. Albo has seen the writing on the wall, but the unions have got the gun at his head. The leaked draft platform of the Labor Party makes no mention of a 2030 or 2035 emissions reduction or renewable energy target, both of which I might add, in my opinion, are rubbish. Just motherhood statements. But nonetheless, that is the commitment, net zero emissions by 2050.

Well, then, there’s Scott Morrison. He’s talking about cheap and reliable energy and without it, he says, there can be no manufacturing revival. He says without a future high-tech manufacturing base, there can be no jobs growth.

Now all of that’s correct, and that our energy prices need to reflect the lower international prices. I might add, they should reflect our abundant availability of raw materials. But then he, too, the prime minister is spooked by the left, by the climate change renewable energy zealots and the anti-coal-fired power minority.

On the one hand, Scott Morrison keeps on saying coal is a part of the plan, but then talks about a Hunter Valley gas power plant in New South Wales. The prime minister said that coal would remain a critical energy source for decades to come, and then we must replace the 1000 megawatts we’ll have lost when the Liddell coal-fired plant closes in 2023. That’s all and good.

But I have to say, this seems to me a bit of pie in the sky. We do need a major base load power station. In fact, we need 10 of them, and we could use all our resources, coal, gas and nuclear. But it appears that coal won’t get a guernsey because we’re terrified of the Greenies. Nuclear, well, we’ve got laws preventing nuclear and gas, when AGL closes Liddell in the early 2020s. Well, Matt Canavan can’t find his way out of the front bench of the Morrison government, but I suspect he’s forgotten more than most of those people know.

He joins us tonight. Matt, thank you for your time. Will a gas-based manufacturing plant work in the Hunter Valley? Where’s the gas coming from?

Matt Canavan: Well, I don’t think it will, Alan, and I don’t think it will because of the real-world evidence we ssee before us. This plan, the plan to rely on gas to sort of bandaid gaffer tape our energy system together was what the South Australian Labor Party put together a few years ago. After the Black Event there in 2016, they said, “Well, let’s build a gas-fired power plant,” which they’ve done. That has kept the lights on.

But, of course, as you would probably know, power prices in South Australia are the highest in the world right now. I don’t think that’s what we want because I agree with you completely. I agree with the prime minister that we must get our energy prices down and we’re not going, we’ve got no hope of bringing manufacturing back to this country unless we do. But we’ve got to use the natural resources that we are blessed with, that we are blessed with. New South Wales imports more than 90% of its gas.

Alan Jones: Yeah, but there we were in the Hunter Valley there.

Matt Canavan: Yeah, exactly. New South Wales has no gas, basically no gas. It’s in the middle of the world’s best thermal coal base, and they’re in the Hunter Valley. We export 160 million tonnes of the stuff from Newcastle. It’s the biggest coal port in the world. That’s enough to power 50 coal-fired power stations, yet we won’t keep any of it for ourselves. It is madness, and it’s that kind of madness that will prevent us bringing manufacturing jobs back to Australia.

Alan Jones:

Well, now, look, you’re in the government. Does anyone talk to you? Does the prime minister say, “Now, Matt, do you know a bit about this? What do you reckon?”

Matt Canavan: I’ve been making these points for months, Alan, because I’ve seen the rhetoric around having a gas-based manufacturing plan and I just look… Well, it’s not me saying this, Alan.

Alan Jones: No.

Matt Canavan: I mean the ACCC has been reporting on our gas markets every year for the past few years.

Alan Jones: Massive shortage.

Matt Canavan: In their report earlier this year, they said, yes, that we face an uncertain supply future for gas in Eastern Australia, and they’re absolutely right. In the next few years, we’re looking at having quite a big shortfall.

Just to put that shortfall in context, this gas-fired power station, if it was to run all the time, would need about 50 petajoules a year, that’s just an energy unit. The shortfall we’re facing in East Australia in the next few years is about a hundred petajoules a year, so double the requirement for this plant, and that’s the on existing use.

Alan Jones: That’s right. And then, of course, you can’t just say, “We’re going to build a gas-fired power station.” You’ve got to take the legislation if the Commonwealth is going to do it, it’s got to get through the Senate. Then you’ve got all this green tape and development approvals by the states. I mean, this has never, never stuff when, as you say, we’ve got coal, abundant resources of coal, get into it, use the coal, instead of exporting it to other people, so they can have cheaper electricity.

Matt Canavan: Well, that’s right, Alan, and there is sort of this counter-argument saying, “Well, we won’t get a coal-fired power station up. We’d love to do coal, but it’s not going to get support.”

But hang on a second. You know very well, Alan, it’s hardly like fracking has enormous support out in the public domain. I mean, you and I probably have a slightly different view on the issue, but if you’re talking about something that’s politically difficult, I think asking the frack people’s land is a little bit more difficult than building a coal-fired power station in this country, politically. It’s a little bit more difficult and that’s been proven so. So if we want to do something that we think can happen, well, I actually think the support’s there for coal-fired power station.

But we’re sort of around the edges here, Alan. Let’s call a spade, a spade. What’s really happening here is the same people who brought you the koala catastrophe in New South Wales, they’re bringing you the coal-fired power catastrophe now. It’s the Matt Keans and the New South Wales Liberal party of the world who don’t want to build this stuff and are holding our manufacturing industry to ransom by not supporting our advantages in natural cheap power.

Alan Jones: Yup. Well, what about nuclear? I mean, isn’t the argument of a leader that they go to the electorate and prosecute the case? Like how they did with the GST, something which might appear unfashionable, but when you explain it clearly to the electorate, they say, “Hey, he’s making sense, that bloke. I think this is the way to have cheap electricity.”

Matt Canavan: Well, I think you’re absolutely right with nuclear. We should look to do that. There’s been some developments in the last few weeks where modular reactors have been submitted for approval in the US for the first time. Now these are smaller nuclear reactors that would be much more suited to our smaller country. Whereas existing off-the-shelf nuclear reactors are very, very large and might struggle to fit into our network. So we should be pursuing those options, in my view.

I mean, why don’t we seek to lead the world in this type of stuff? That’s what really frustrates me.

Alan Jones: I agree.

Matt Canavan: We have the best raw materials.

Alan Jones: I agree.

Matt Canavan: We’ve got the best uranium, we’ve got the best coal.

Alan Jones: Yes.

Matt Canavan: Why aren’t we actually developing the frontier best coal-fired power stations in the world, the best nuclear sort of options, instead we sort of sitting back.

Alan Jones: All I can say is, well, thank God for you and keep at it. I’ll keep at it. You keep at it. We might be able to convince one or two people. You’re always welcome here to talk sense, Matt Canavan. It’s great to talk to you up there at Yeppoon, up there at Yeppoon, I hope it is all well. Well, thank you for your time, Matt. There he is-

Matt Canavan: All right, Alan.

Alan Jones: … Senator Matt Canavan.

Sky News

Coal-fired power: we’d be freezing or boiling in the dark without it.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Peter Pronczak says:

    Relevant perhaps is the 20th August 2020 announcement of the Northern Territory’s largest onshore gas producer, unveiling plans to build a 950km pipeline costing more than a $1bn to supply gas from the NT’s Amadeus gas basin to Sydney and other east coast markets.
    Central Petroleum Ltd, which has oil and gas at Mereenie in the Palm Valley and Dingo fields for domestic customers in the Northern Territory, says the pipeline will be built and operated by the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group.

    This week ALP state MP for Maryborough, QLD Bruce Saunders, announced he’s “confident” the 226 turbine farm of a consortium backed by Siemens Financial and lead company Forest Wind (an original name for being located in state forests), as no doubt he is considering an inquiry only tut-tutted over the three years of secret government-consortium ‘negotiations’ doubtless, of how to get the job done before publicly announcing the project. Hard to believe Saunders was unaware of the talks kept secret from his constituents.
    Now suddenly, the state government has a reason to lease a Canadian water bomber for 5 years for $15M. Along with the Canadian pilots that redundant Australian pilots are a bit miffed about. LNP state opposition leader Deb Frecklington mentioned the aircraft is smaller than that announced last year. Getting a water bomber wasn’t mentioned in local media at the time as perhaps it would have raised eyebrows when the turbine project was made public. The delights of press freedom.
    The bomber, now delivered and based at Bundaberg, will be available to other states who may be in need. As the PM has announced a national fire spark spotting plan, including satellite surveillance, there just might be some angling for federal funding.
    But who can tell, with so many political secrets voters are the last to know what they’re going to pay for, or the total bill.

  2. Crispin bpm says:

    A 500MW battery is no replacement for a 500MW baseload coal or gas plant. They are two completely different systems. The fact the idea is even being suggested effectively amounts to nothing more than sabotage of the grid.

    • Correct Crispin.
      I saw a bit of Scomo on Insiders last night. He said something along the lines of ”’wind and solar have proven they are commercially viable and effective…”. I was only half listening because I was channel surfing BUT if he did say that, it just proves how out of touch and divorced from the facts he is.
      I have never been a Scomo fan but this really is displaying his ignorance for all to see.

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