Old solution to new problem: Coal-fired power stations needed ‘back online’

Coal-fired power stations need to come back online to help ease the nation’s energy crisis, Resources Minister Madeleine King says.

Jun 07, 2022, updated Jun 07, 2022
Resources Minister Madeleine King would not be drawn on whether the Government was considering assistance for coal-fired power generators. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

Resources Minister Madeleine King would not be drawn on whether the Government was considering assistance for coal-fired power generators. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

Amid soaring gas prices due to supply issues, King said an immediate step is for power station operators “to get moving on fixing their plants right now”.

“In the very short term, what we really need to do is to have the coal power stations come back online because that is the missing piece of the puzzle right now,” she told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“There’s been unplanned outages for many reasons, many beyond the control of those operators and I do accept that, but I hope they’re doing their best to make sure this power source comes online as well.”

A major factor in the current crisis has been spiralling costs of coal and the lack of generation supply which was impacted by the shut-down of the Callide C generator in central Queensland a year ago.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen will meet his state and territory counterparts on Wednesday to discuss solutions as the Albanese government considers short- and longer-term solutions to take pressure off prices.

King skirted around the issue of the government providing assistance to coal-fired power stations, saying the government had a clean energy policy.

“It wouldn’t matter how much money anyone put in right now, we just need the operators to get moving on fixing their plants right now,” she said.

“It is the coal companies themselves and the operators of the power stations that need to get these power stations back online. It’s 30 per cent of the energy capacity taken out of the mix because of unforeseen circumstances in many respects.”

When asked if the government would consider a nationwide policy forcing producers to reserve 15 per cent of their gas as they are in Western Australia, Ms King said “nothing is off the table”.

She did not commit to the policy, saying it was a “great political struggle” for the Labor government to introduce it, with many people losing “a lot of political skin in that fight”.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said cost of living relief would feature in the October budget, but extending the fuel excise cut would be difficult because of how much it cost.

“We’ve got a plan to get those power bills down over time because the absence of an energy policy for the best part of the decade is a key reason why inflation is going through the roof,” he told Sky News.

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Opposition treasury spokesman Angus Taylor defended the former Morrison government’s spending, which led to the nation’s debt soaring to $1 trillion.

Taylor blamed the pandemic for the budget blowout and said spending had been “temporary and targeted”.

“It is important that governments be prudent and careful when they’re spending at a time when we’ve got such strong inflationary pressures,” he told the ABC on Tuesday.

When asked if he accepted responsibility as former energy minister for the lack of investment in renewables, Taylor rejected he had failed.

“We’re committed to some important transmission projects … but we don’t need excessive investment because that puts upward pressure on prices,” he said.

“So getting the balance right is pretty critical.”

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott urged the government to act on fact-based decision making with “calm heads”.

“We must not allow this to become another political bun fight,” she said

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