Minister attacked by experts for claiming Australia should invest in coal power

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Coal Power Station
Firefighters tackle a fire at a power station in Ferrybridge, northern England July 31, 2014. A fire broke out at Britain's Ferrybridge coal-fired power plant in West Yorkshire on Thursday, owner and operator SSE said, with no injuries reported but one generation unit going offline. Reuters/Andrew Yates

Economists and energy analysts express disagreement against federal minister for resources Matt Canavan’s claim that Australia should invest in coal power. According to a research conducted by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, which was commissioned by Canavan, the country can reduce emission by 27 percent by embracing a more efficient “ultra-supercritical” technology.

But Climate Institute energy analyst Olivia Kember said such move can jeopardise longer-term commitments made in Paris. Part of these is to reach net zero emissions in the second half of the century.

“Australia has committed through the Paris Agreement to achieve net zero emissions,” Kember explained. She pointed that new coal stations that can go no further than a reduction of 25 percent to 34 percent will not achieve the net zero aim.

Instead, it would lock the land down under into decades of high-carbon electricity while other countries are switching to clean power. “That’s such a risky outcome that I doubt any financial institutions would even finance investments in ultra-supercritical coal in Australia,” Kember exclaimed.

Even Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel does not go with Canavan’s claim. In his preliminary report on the future security of the electricity market, it was stated that it has been clear in their consultations that no one is contemplating investing in new ones. “Owner-investors are exiting emissions-intensive power stations as these reach the end of their design lives,” the report said.

Amid the attacks against the coal industry, Canavan released a statement to explain that coal has a significant role to play as Australia, and the rest of the world, reduce carbon dioxide emissions. He said the country has the resources to be a low-cost and efficient energy superpower. “Access to affordable and reliable power underpins our economy and is the key to long-term jobs in the manufacturing sector,” he said.