The NSW government has approved the construction of the $600m gas-fired Kurri Kurri power station in the state’s Hunter region, which critics say makes little commercial sense.
According to The Guardian, Snowy Hydro’s application to build the 660MW power station in Kurri Kurri was approved by Rob Stokes in one of his final decisions as the state’s planning minister. The NSW government declared the project critical state significant infrastructure, fast-tracking its environmental assessment.
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A spokesperson for the NSW department of planning, industry and environment said the plant was approved “following rigorous assessment and consideration of community feedback”.
The power station will be built on part of the site of the former Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter, which closed in 2012 and has since been demolished.
According to the project’s environmental impact statement, the plant is expected to run at just 2 per cent of its full capacity across the year, filling gaps at times of peak demand.
“This project will improve energy reliability and security in the national energy market as it brings on renewable energy from wind and solar farms, and transitions away from coal-fired power generation over the next 10-15 years,” the department’s spokesperson said.
The department’s spokesperson told The Guardian Snowy Hydro was required to prepare a net-zero power generation plan to support the transition toward net-zero emissions.
“This may include using hydrogen gas, which would be subject to further planning assessment,” they said.
The project still requires environmental approval under commonwealth laws from federal environment minister Sussan Ley.
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Nic Clyde said the Kurri Kurri project was a waste of public funds and a white elephant that Australia did not need.
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“It’s disappointing that as the world shifts towards renewable energy and zero carbon technology, the Perrottet and Morrison governments are spending more than half a billion in public money propping up this polluting gas plant, and many more millions on the fossil fuel industry as a whole,” he said.
The chair of the Energy Security Board has also said the project makes little commercial sense and an analysis by Victoria University’s energy policy centre found the project had no prospect of generating enough revenue to justify its cost.