Report: Queensland top state for breakdowns of fossil fuel power stations

coal, industrial manslaughter
AAP Image/Dave Hunt

New research from The Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program shows Queensland’s gas and coal power stations are the most unreliable of any state in the National Electricity Market (NEM), with the state’s gas and coal power stations breaking down the most often despite having the newest and most modern coal power plants in the country.

Analysis of the two-year period from December 2017-2019 found the newest coal power station in the NEM, Queensland’s Kogan Creek, was also the most unreliable generating unit across the entire NEM.

Key findings:

  • There were 93 unplanned breakdowns at Queensland’s gas and coal power stations over a two-year period from December 13, 2017 to December 31, 2019, out of a total 227 breakdowns experienced across the National Energy Market (NEM).
  • Queensland’s gas and coal power stations had the greatest number of breakdowns, 41 per cent of the total, despite making up only 34 per cent of fossil fuel power stations in the NEM.
  • Queensland’s so-called ‘High-Efficiency, Low-Emissions’ supercritical stations broke down 25 per cent more per gigawatt (GW) than older subcritical coal power stations in the NEM.
  • Queensland’s newest coal power station at Kogan Creek is the worst performing single generating unit in the NEM with 13 breakdowns.
  • Renewable energy with built-in storage is 30 per cent cheaper to build and run than new coal-fired power stations.
  • The proposed new coal power station in Collinsville, Queensland will reportedly utilise similar technology, standards, and emissions levels as Kogan Creek, the most unreliable power station unit in the NEM.

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The Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program director Richie Merzian said it comes as no surprise that Queensland’s newest coal power stations are also its more unreliable.

“These new so-called ‘high-efficiency, low-emissions’ coal power stations in Queensland are all hype and spin. Our research shows that in reality, they ought to be dubbed ‘high emissions, low reliability’ stations for their high pollution levels and high breakdown numbers,” Mr Merzian said.

“It is concerning to see federal funding used to investigate adding another one of these unreliable coal power stations at Collinsville, which will do little to reassure Queenslanders that they won’t experience more power station breakdowns.

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“Most coal power stations are big and when they break down in extreme heat with high electricity demand, it creates serious threats of blackouts. 

“If governments want to bring more energy certainty to the Sunshine State, one of the safest bets is on the sunshine and investing in solar power and battery storage to help meet these peak demands.”