Well here’s a turn-up. Malcolm Turnbull, apostelistic slaughterer-in-chief of carbon emissions, is not only acquiescing in producing more of them but is seeking to divert funds from an agency set up to kill coal to assist in its resurrection!
Turnbull is pressuring the Clean Energy Development Fund, the renegade agency created by Gillard and protected by the ALP, Greens and assorted know-nothing independents, to provide funds for “modern” coal-powered generators. It has also talked the $100 billion Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank into changing its lending policy to support for coal-fired electricity generation.
The plan is to get a station in northern Queensland which is said to be commercially viable and is said also to provide $863 million in “social benefits”.
You can see where this is going. We are to have some whizz bang new facility employing an expensive high tech system that will get a government subsidy.
Hopefully this new technology will not be the government’s barren love child, Carbon Capture and Storage, a technology that will always be twice the cost of conventional plant. Australia has fruitlessly spent tens of millions of dollars on this dead end, largely to assuage its own guilt and that of BHP’s CEO about making money for the country and the company by selling a product that ensures the world’s destruction due to carbon dioxide emissions.
The government funding will likely be contingent upon a plant that uses “supercritical” coal technology, the high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) plant.
This gets about 50 per cent more energy from the coal itself but is thought to cost 30-40 per cent more in capital. For Australia it means a premium cost of perhaps 20 per cent. Not bad set against wind that has a 200 per cent premium for an intrinsically unreliable generation. But hardly “commercial”.
The new departure comes days after the “expertariate” (including the head of ACiL Tasman) had proclaimed that no new coal plant would ever get off the ground in Australia. Bloomberg New Energy Finance has also just published an appraisal that put the HELE cost at $134-$203 per megawatt hour but then again the shonkiness of its estimates should have been recognised by a gullible media when it also reckoned we could get wind for $61 per MWh!
The Turnbull recant on coal is a recognition, after nearly three months, that Trump means an end to the global emission policy, which the PM had previously sacrificed the Liberal Party leadership to defend. And his U-turn was doubtless assisted by the compelling evidence that wind is not only dear but undermines system stability. Turnbull may also have been prompted to compromise by a recognition of his own political vulnerability following the goring he received from Trump and the rebuttal of his claim that the export of unwanted “refugees” to the US had the new President’s unqualified support.
Government support for a new coal power station means it will be excessively expensive but nonetheless the policy demonstrates that the government is at least one step ahead of the commentariat in inching its way back to policy sanity on energy.