ESB chair under fire for coal comments

Smoke pours from chimney stacks at coal-fired power station (emissions trading)
Image: Shutterstock

Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott has been accused of making false claims after declaring there is no longer an investment case to build new coal-fired power stations in Australia.

Speaking at the 2018 Future Thinking conference last week, Dr Schott gave an assurance that no new coal power would be built, with or without the national energy guarantee (NEG).

“You are unlikely to see a new coal-fired generation plant built unless there is a change in technology and a decline in the price of coal,” Dr Schott said.

“The cost of running a clean-coal plant is much more expensive than running a combination of wind, solar and gas, or, better yet, wind, solar and pumped hydro.”

Resources Minister Matt Canavan has demanded evidence from Dr Schott to back up her claims.

“Ms Schott’s comments do not reflect the advice that has been provided to the government, including through the Finkel review,” he said, according to The Australian.

“The Finkel review concluded that today solar with storage was 70 per cent more expensive than a new coal-fired power station.

“I have asked Ms Schott to explain what evidence she is relying on to make these conclusions.

“It is extremely important we make the right choices to produce the cheapest power in Australia. Around 50,000 Australians work in metals manufacturing and their jobs rely on us getting this right.”

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) executive director has disputed Dr Schott’s claims.

“Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has rightly stated the government is developing the NEG to ensure technology neutrality, where all generation options should be available and considered as part of the NEG’s stated objectives to improve reliability and affordability while reducing emissions,” he said.

“This approach would ensure that if the economics of a particular generation option are clear, then it should be allowed to operate without subsidy and on merit, allowing markets to select the best technologies.

“Facts should be central to the energy debate, including a full analysis to support claims that dispatchable wind and solar with gas or pumped hydro is cheaper on a full system cost basis than new HELE coal-fired electricity generation.”

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