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Queensland LNP energy plan based on a “myth”

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison has condemned the Queensland LNP plan for a new coal-fired power station to address electricity prices as a “myth”.

The Australian Financial Review reported that Mr Morrison said “new cheap coal is a bit of a myth”.

The Federal Treasurer’s comments, reported under the headline “Coal no solution” to energy crisis, says Morrison”, included:

“Let’s not think that there’s cheap now coal, there’s not.  And [High Efficiency Low Emission coal-fired power station] takes seven years to turn up, so if we that is all of a sudden going to make your power bills cheap next month, it won’t.”

Queensland Treasurer and Acting Energy Minister Curtis Pitt acknowledged Mr Morrison’s honesty and said he agrees that even if it had a proponent and a site, the LNP’s expensive coal-fired power station would provide no short-term solution to Federal Government failures in the National Electricity Market.

The Australian Industry Group, a peak business body says electricity bills would need to double to sustain a coal fired power station in North Queensland and the CEO of Australian Energy Council Matthew Warren says there is no pressing commercial case for a new coal fired generator in North Queensland as Victoria and South Australia are where capacity increases need to happen.

“The LNP and Tim Nicholls don’t care about electricity prices paid by Queenslanders. That’s why power bills increased by 43% under the LNP’s time in office, compared to an average of 1.9% per year under Labor,” Mr Pitt said.

In stark contrast, the Palaszczuk Government is leading the nation on energy policy with a comprehensive $1.16 billion Powering Queensland Plan that retains electricity assets in public ownership, promotes Queensland’s sustainable energy mix including coal, gas and renewables, and provides power bill concessions to vulnerable Queenslanders.

The Powering Queensland Plan has helped stabilise electricity prices, delivers jobs and investment and lead the transition to a clean energy future.

Renewables are now the cheapest form of new generation to build and there are currently 17 large scale renewable projects financially committed in Qld, 15 under construction right now- an investment of more than 2 billion supporting jobs in our regions. Once operational these projects will increase competition and put downward pressure on prices.

In addition to the Powering Queensland Plan, the Palaszczuk Government was spending $488 million this financial year for its uniform tariff policy, a community service obligation to maintain price parity between south east Queensland and regional communities.

Key elements of the Powering Queensland Plan include:

  • providing electricity price relief by investing $770 million to lower the cost of the Solar Bonus Scheme, which halved the price increase on power bills
  • restarting Stanwell Corporation’s 385 megawatt (MW) Swanbank E gas-fired power station;
  • directing Stanwell Corporation to undertake strategies to place downward pressure on wholesale prices
  • investigating the restructure of the Government owned Corporation generators and potential establishment of ‘CleanCo’ (Clean Energy Corporation)
  • delivering a $386 million Powering North Queensland Plan to strengthen and diversify the north’s energy supply
  • establishing Queensland Energy Security Taskforce which will implement outcomes of the Finkel Review – which are accepted by Queensland but not by the LNP and the Turnbull Government. The taskforce will also look at other actions to lead the nation on energy policy
  • confirming the Government’s commitment to a 50 per cent renewable energy target
  • undertaking a reverse auction for up to 400MW of renewable energy, including 100MW of energy storage
  • improving large-scale project facilitation, planning and network connections
  • implementing the Queensland Gas Action Plan
  • continue to advocate for stable, integrated national climate and energy policies.

Mr Pitt said action under the Powering Queensland Plan (PQP) – had been applauded by Mr Rod Simms, chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission who said: “… the good news is, the Queensland Government, alone of any government, has drawn on its own budget to remove that cost to consumers and I certainly applaud them for doing that and again I think it’s evidence of a welcome focus on affordability…” (ABC Brisbane 25/7/17)

Mr Pitt said, “it’s great to see Mr Simms supporting our Government’s clear action on electricity pricing and I will be writing to him to provide further details about our intention to establish a new generation company focused on clean energy that may also have the added benefit of introducing more competition into the market.”

Mr Morrison’s comments follow a statement from Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO, head of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market, that: “The actual cost of bringing on new coal in this country per megawatt hour is projected to be substantially more expensive than the cost of bringing on wind or solar.”

Former Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan last month said that “a coal-fired power plant would cost somewhere between $2 and $3 billion.” (Q&A 17/07/17).

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