AGL Liddell closure a game-changer requiring NSW Government action: green groups

AGL Liddell closure a game-changer requiring NSW Government action: green groups Announce: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and campaigning former MP John Alexander during questions over the AGL decision on Saturday.
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Ageing: Liddell power station near Muswellbrook.

Calls: Nature Conservation Council chief executive Kate Smolski said the AGL decision was a good start.

Future: Liddell power station outside Muswellbrook which will close in 2022.

Calls: There are calls for NSW to shift to 100 per cent renewable power by 2030.

TweetFacebookAGL’s decision to close Liddell power station at Muswellbrook should be backed by a NSW Government commitment to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030, said one of the state’s peak environmental groups.

AGL’s commitment to close Liddell by 2022, despite intense political pressure from the Turnbull Government was a game-changer that requires a NSW Government response, and further commitments from AGL to shift from coal by 2030, said Nature Conservation Council chief executive Kate Smolski.

The AGL decision in the face of political pressure shows that clean energy is now the cheapest way for Australia to generate power, said Ms Smolski said.

“It’s time to get on with building wind and solar farms to bring down bills and create jobs in regional NSW.

“The important thing now is for a plan for the Hunter Valley to ensure that no worker or community is left behind in the transition to clean energy.”

AGL on Saturday said an independent analysis had found keeping the nearly 50-year-old Liddell power station open for five yearspast the planned 2022 closing date would cost almost $1 billion.

It found splitting the plant from surrounding infrastructure and trying to sell it was also not feasible.

The company said it planned to generate 1600 megawatts from renewables, 500 MW from a new gas power plant, 250 MW from a gas plant for Newcastle and another 250 MW from a battery on the Liddell site.

AGL is also exploring a pumped hydro project in the Hunter region of NSW.

The company said it did not believe its plan would adversely affect power prices. Its analysis showed it could produce power at $83 a megawatt-hour compared with $106 if Liddell was refurbished to extend its life.

The plan would also reduce the company’s carbon footprint by more than 17 per cent, in line with its commitment to reduce emissions and help meet the Paris agreement targets.

“This plan demonstrates that old power plants can be replaced with a mix of new, cleaner technology while improving reliability and affordability,” AGL chair Graeme Hunter said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government would seek expert advice on AGL’s plan, after imploring the company in September to keep the station open. AGL responded with a publicity campaign to demonstrate that Liddell failed to produce the dispatchable –readily available –energy required during peak periods in summer and winter, after a Liddell failure in February last year forced Tomago Aluminium to shut down operations for crucial hours.

Grattan Institute energy expert Tony Wood said the AGL decision fitted the recommendations of the Energy Security Board and Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s energy review. Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott also praised the proposal as innovative, secure and environmentally sound.

Ms Smolski said despite the Liddell decision AGL remained Australia’s biggest climate polluter.

“Committing to replace Liddell with mostly clean energy is an important start yet the company urgently needs a plan to transition out of coal entirely by 2030,” she said.

The Nature Conservation Council has calledon the Berejiklian government to setenforceable targets to source 100 per centof the state’s electricity from renewables by 2030.

The government also needed to develop a plan for aquick and orderly phase-out of coal-fired power stations that is fair to power-station workers and createincentives for the development of storage technologies, including batteries and pumped hydro, Ms Smolski said.

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