Submission to the inquiry into the retirement of coal fired power stations

Key points:

• The demand for coal is set to continue for decades - Australia continues to benefit from growing demand for affordable energy in India, China and SE Asia and their collective need for Australian high quality coals. 

• Low cost electricity, built on coal-fired power generation, was an essential element of Australia’s comparative advantage during the 20th century and modern coal technology can deliver the same benefit this century. 

• This economic edge has been lost over the last decade due to costly policy interventions – including the carbon tax, the expensive Renewable Energy Target, a lack of a national energy plan and deep uncertainty about future electricity prices, reliability and security. 

• Australia does not have to choose between coal and a low emissions future. New coal generation technologies are reducing CO2 emissions by up to 40 to 50 per cent and carbon capture and geological storage offers the prospect of reducing emissions by up to 90 per cent. There are 725 HELE units in place in Asia alone, with another 1150 planned or under construction. 

• An informed debate is crucial - There is limited understating of the nature of electricity, where it comes from and the complementary roles that renewables and fossil fuels can and do play. 

• The announcement of the closure of the Hazelwood power station, and the recovery issues in South Australia after its blackout are a reminder that Australia must work to maintain its long-held competitive advantage in low cost electricity. 

• Under a technology-neutral approach to Australia’s energy needs, the Latrobe Valley – and other areas where there is a geographic concentration of coal-fired power generation or heavy industry, and skilled employees – still have a big future. 

As part of a medium term plan to keep domestic energy costs down and CO2 emissions levels lower.



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