A new report has found it would cost $1.3 billion more to keep the Liddell coal-fired power plant in New South Wales open beyond its use-by date, than to replace it with a mix of renewables and other sustainable energy solutions.
The report, Beyond Coal: Alternatives to Extending the Life of Liddell Power Station, was commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and researched by the UTS Institute of Sustainable Futures (ISF). It compared the pollution and costs of three proposals for Liddell: the government’s proposal to extend its life by five years, Liddell owner AGL’s replacement proposal and a package of clean energy, demand management and energy efficiency.
The report revealed the economic folly of the federal government’s plan to keep Australia’s oldest coal-fired power plant open beyond 2022 and found the clean energy package would be significantly cheaper than either the government’s proposal or AGL’s replacement plan.
It found a combination of wind power, demand management and energy efficiency would cost $2.2 billion over five years, compared with $3.6 billion to keep Liddell open for five years beyond its retirement age.
The report also found that an expanded clean energy package, including battery storage, solar thermal and bioenergy, would still come in almost $500 million cheaper than keeping the polluting Liddell plant open.
Importantly, the report revealed the stark difference between the carbon footprints of the three options. The clean energy package would have zero pollution, extending Liddell for five years would create 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and AGL’s proposal, 2.5 million tonnes. This extra carbon pollution would make it almost impossible for Australia to meet its Paris climate target.
ISF Research Director Chris Dunstan said using clean energy solutions to address the closure of Liddell could also set a powerful precedent for longer-term energy transition across the country.
“As much as 60% of Australia’s coal fired power stations are expected to reach retirement age in the next 15 years,” he said. “Now is the time to prepare for this transition.
“The good news is that by replacing this capacity with smarter, clean energy options we can reduce costs, reduce emissions, create jobs and maintain reliable electricity supply.”
ACF Chief Executive Officer Kelly O’Shanassy agreed: “Australia desperately needs a comprehensive climate change policy that will facilitate the rapid transition to a clean energy future.
“Any climate change and energy policy, be it the National Energy Guarantee or another proposal, must be designed to encourage as much clean energy and smart technology as possible, and not prop-up polluting coal plants that are damaging our planet.”