Big power companies snub government underwriting for new coal plants


Of the country’s three largest generators – AGL, Origin, and EnergyAustralia – Origin has not submitted a proposal, AGL has sought support for a major battery at a Queensland wind farm and EnergyAustralia has asked for funding to upgrade a turbine at its Mt Piper coal plant in NSW.

Queensland’s largest generator, CS Energy, has not put forward a proposal.

We spent about an hour trying to come up with anyone that would want to go ahead with a new coal plant and apart from Trevor St Baker and the restart of Redbank we couldn’t think of any.

Large power generator

An Alinta spokeswoman confirmed it had submitted a proposal but declined to say whether it was related to its coal plants.

“We’ve come up with a number of options we want to explore across our portfolio and we are waiting for the government to advise on the next steps,” an Alinta spokeswoman said.

Alinta owns the Loy Yang B coal-fired power station in Victoria and in 2018 unsuccessfullly bid for AGL’s Liddell plant in NSW which is slated for closure in 2022.

The largest confirmed proposal is from Trevor St Baker, the joint owner of the Vales Point Power station at Lake Macquarie in NSW.

Mr St Baker plans to rebuild the demolished Vales Point A power station.Credit:Wikimedia

He has put forward submissions, valued at up to $6 billion, for three coal-fired power stations on the sites of shuttered plants taking advantage of existing mines and transmission infrastructure.

Mr St Baker’s bid is to build new stations at the site of the Hazelwood plant in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, the demolished Vales Point A power plant at Lake Macquarie and AGL’s Liddell plant.

“These are all brownfields developments [on existing sites], it makes no sense to build new, greenfield coal-fired power plants as you need to get more economic and environmental approvals,” Mr St Baker told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Private generator Energy Developments Ltd has made five bids some related to coal mine gas.

Frontier Economics chief economist Danny Price said calling new coal-fired power plants “a stupid idea”.

“Any new coal-fired power stations you bring in would simply have to push out existing ones but require more work,” he said.

One unnamed major generator said it was hard to believe there would be many submissions for new coal-fired power plants.

“We spent about an hour trying to come up with anyone that would want to go ahead with a new coal plant and apart from Trevor St Baker and the restart of Redbank we couldn’t think of any,” he said.

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NSW-based Hunter Energy chief executive Jim Myatt confirmed his company had put forward a submission to reopen its 150 megawatt Redbank coal-fired power station, in the NSW Hunter Valley.

“Elements of this submission are to do with Redbank,” Mr Myatt said.

“It is around requirements for the plant looking forward in the market.”

The group has been carrying out feasibility studies to restart the power station following its closure in 2014.

He said the company was not looking to build an entirely new coal-fired power station.

Covering energy and policy at Fairfax Media.

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