As Coalition conservatives – led by former prime minister Tony Abbott – continued their push to keep the ageing and increasingly decrepit Liddell coal-fired power generator open for another five years, on the pretense of keeping the lights on, the people running the plant just want it to close.
During a tour of the Liddell coal generator in the Hunter Valley, organised by its owner AGL Energy, plant manager Kate Coates made it clear that the management, and the staff, were very much in favour of its closure.
The company said it would cost around $900 million to keep it open another 10 years, as requested by the federal Coalition. Already, AGL has spent $140 million in the last three years and plans another $160 million to keep it open until 2022.
Coal stockpiles are also being run down, and it is difficult to find new coal, particularly at competitive prices. Despite the Coalition government wanting to keep it open, their quest is looking increasingly foolish with the only mooted buyer – Delta Energy – reportedly dropping its interest on Monday.
Also dropping are the odds on the plant being kept open. According to online bookmaker sportsbet.com.au, it is offering betting odds of $1.60 that the plant will be decommissioned, $2.88 for another five year commitment past 2022 and $5.00 that the plant will be sold.
The NSW government is the $2.00 favourite to purchase the plant should it be put up for sale – Clive Palmer is an outside chance on $51.
“The plant really did look very old and clapped out,” said ITK analyst and RenewEconomy contributor David Leitch, who is on the tour of the plant, and who wrote these two analyses last week on the costs of keeping Liddell open, and what could replace it.
Leitch said Coates had spoken of the importance of allowing employees to be able to plan their future, but who were now facing increased uncertainty. A new poll from The Australia Institute suggested that people living in the area surrounding the coal plant also overwhelmingly support its closure.
David Leitch and Giles Parkinson will discuss Leitch’s trip to Liddell – and his visit to its biggest customer, the Tomago smelter – in this week’s Energy Insiders podcast, to be released on Wednesday morning
(Note: This story headline has been changed to make clear $900 million cost is to keep open for another 10 years).
(Note: This story has been amended to include a photo of the Liddell power plant. The original version used an image of the neighbouring Bayswater coal plant.)
Giles Parkinson is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the former editor of Climate Spectator.