Channel Seven boss Kerry Stokes's HRL Ltd and China's Harbin Power Engineering Company are to build a $750 million "clean coal" power station in the Latrobe Valley that, when operational from the end of 2009, will add significantly to Victoria's greenhouse gas emissions.
The power station will be fired by brown coal using an "integrated drying gasification combined cycle". HRL claims that the brown-coal-burning plant with produce 30% less CO2 emissions than a standard brown-coal-fired power stations. But brown-coal-fired power stations produce 30-35% more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of electricity than black-coal-fired stations.
A Corporate Watch Australia report prepared for Friends of the Earth — HRL Limited: Burning Coal at Three Minutes to Midnight — has found that the station will generate three times more emissions than will be saved through the federal government plan to phase out incandescent lightbulb. Reports released by Victorian energy minister Peter Bachelor during 2007 prove that the "clean coal" power station will increase Victoria's annual greenhouse emissions, by 2.4-2.7 million tonnes.
The power station will a 50-50 venture between RL and Harbin Power Engineering, though the Chinese company is puttimng up $500 million of the total construction cost. The federal government will contribute $100 million and the Victorian government $50 million toward the construction cost of the station.
HRL, then called the Herman Research Laboratory, was the research arm of the State Electricity Commission until 1994 when then-premier Jeff Kennett sold it off to a consortium including Stokes. The sale was a controversial one with no tendering process and involving claims reported on ABC TV's Four Corners program that HRL was "effectively given away".
In July 2006, the Climate Justice Program and Greenpeace lodged a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over HRL Ltd's use of its claim to be going to produce electricity from "clean coal".
Mark Wakeham, Greenpeace's Energy Campaigner, explained at the time: "The use of the term 'clean coal' is not only misleading and deceptive — it's also a dangerous distraction from real action on climate change. Instead of putting $150 million into genuinely clean renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, the federal and state governments are conspiring with the coal industry to support the myth of 'clean coal'."
The FoE commissioned report is available at < http://www.foe.org.au".