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Without coal, higher energy prices inevitable, says Coal Minerals Council of Australia

Statement by Greg Evans, Executive Director – Coal, Minerals Council of Australia

The coal industry expressed serious concerns regarding reports that the Finkel review may rule out the building of modern and super-efficient coal fired power stations and push instead for Australia to put all our eggs in the solar, wind and gas basket to meet our energy needs.

Coal fired generation is the cheapest and most reliable electricity source in Australia, available 24 hours a day, every day.

An energy blueprint that strays away from coal generation or deliberately excludes its contribution in the future means higher prices and less reliable electricity for everyday Australians, industry and businesses.

Despite some early commentary about the report it’s not a technology neutral approach to devise an arbitrary emission threshold test, especially one based on narrow point source emissions and not life-cycle methodology.

Coal should not be deliberately cast aside coal from the energy mix especially as it is well placed to compete on merit and deliver on the Prime Minister’s correctly identified priorities of affordability, reliability and low emissions.

Why would we turn our backs on coal fired electricity? Our history and economic development has been built on the bedrock of the cheap and reliable energy it has provided.  Looking to the future modern super-efficient coal plants should still figure prominently and remain the mainstay of our electricity system while complementing other energy technologies.

Technology leading countries including Japan and Germany understand this and anchor their electricity production with affordable, reliable and low emission coal generation as do the fast-growing economies of Asia with some 1200 high efficiency low emissions (HELE) units under construction or planned in the region.

Australia also has access to the highest quality coal in our own backyard and the rest of the world pays us a premium to use it.  Accordingly, it would seem an epic economic own goal not to use Australian coal for our own purposes.

There will be changes in Australia’s existing energy generation over coming decades to replace aging generation.  But as we modernise our system we must ensure grid stability and keep energy costs as affordable as possible.  If we fail to do so, there are much more serious economy wide implications such as lower growth, falling productivity and hence lower living standards.

Modern coal power plants can play an important role well into the future while also delivering lower CO2 emissions by as much as 50 per cent compared with existing plants.  As the adoption of Carbon Capture and Storage technologies increases, these emissions savings will increase to 90 per cent.

These options need to be part of our future energy mix and should be supported and guided by sensible Government policy making.

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