Environmentalists slam Kurri Kurri gas power plant approval

January 21, 2022
Snowy Hydro's Valley gas-fired power station. Photo: Renew Economy

Environmentalists have slammed the New South Wales government’s decision at the end of last year to approve the construction of the 660-megawatt open cycle gas turbine power station at Kurri Kurri, in the Hunter Valley.

“Approving Kurri Kurri is an all-round dismal move for Australians at a time when the rest of the world is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cashing in on the clean job and economic opportunities of a net-zero future,” Climate Council senior researcher Tim Baxter said on December 21.

The $600 million project, part of the federal government-owned Snowy Hydro’s application, will only operate for an average of one hour in every 50. Despite its limited storage ability the government still claims its construction is necessary to keep prices down once the 2000-megawatt Liddell coal-fired power station, between Singleton and Muswellbrook, closes in 2023.

The Gas Free Hunter Alliance (GFHA) said the proposed plant is “unnecessary and dangerous”. It held a snap protest at the Loxford site — an old aluminium smelter — on December 21. Protesters held signs including, “Planning minister approves: Over 55,000 people disagree”, and “No social licence for Kurri Kurri gas plant”.

Climate Councillor and energy transition academic Madeline Taylor said the gas power station simply was not needed. “Energy analysts and economists agree it will raise electricity prices for residents and businesses, not lower them,” she said.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Nic Clyde said the proposed plant only helps prop up “polluting gas” and “the fossil fuel industry as a whole”.

GFHA spokesperson Fiona Lee said the government’s decision showed “total disregard to the hundreds of locals who oppose the development”.

“Even the conservative International Energy Agency has said there can be no new gas projects if we are to reach net zero goals and try to avoid the increasingly catastrophic effects of climate change.” Lee said the community “deserved a clear transition plan” from a dependency on fossil fuel employment, “instead of lumping our community with this expensive out-of-date dinosaur which will provide only 10 ongoing jobs”.

“It is particularly disturbing that this project has received the green light from the NSW government after it has made commitments to net zero emissions by 2050,” Lee said.

GFHA is planning to support efforts to block the project.

Former TAFE teacher and grandmother Lyn Benn, who has lived in Mulbring near Kurri Kurri for 14 years, is “incensed at the waste of public money”.

“If it makes sense then let private enterprise build it,” she said. “For that amount of money, we could safeguard Kurri Kurri hospital, give our local bush fire brigades a much-needed boost or provide something for the local kids to do.”

Kerry Schott, a former chair of the Energy Security Board, has spoken out against it. An analysis by Victoria University’s energy policy centre found it had no prospect of generating enough revenue to justify its cost.

The project now goes to the federal government and, if approved, it could be running by mid-2023.

On January 19, investigative journalist Michael West asked and answered why the plant was being pushed so hard.

“One word, money. Not money for Australians, money for political parties. Both of them. When it comes to gas, Labor is every bit as culpable. This is why we hear not a squeak from the Opposition.”

[Visit the Gas Free Hunter Alliance for more information on the campaign against the Kurri Kurri gas plant.]

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