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Australian government supports public funding for new "clean coal" power stations

07 February 2017

Australia's resources minister Matthew Canavan said the government is considering providing some of the A$5 billion ($3.84 billion) Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF) to help build new high-efficiency "clean coal" power stations in the country's north, Australian media reported on February 4.

Stock image
Stock image

Canavan said he was open to using public funds for coal-fired power plants in the state of Queensland and had already received interest from a number of parties, including from abroad.

He said the NAIF was already looking at some renewable energy options in the north and investments in renewables would be an important part of the country’s energy mix, but there was still a need for base-load power and coal was the obvious option in the north given the high-quality reserves there.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the push for more clean-coal technology earlier, and vowed to make electricity prices and energy security a defining political debate of 2017. He also said Australia's energy policy should be "technology agnostic".

Australia has invested A$590 million in clean coal technology research and demonstration since 2009, yet the country does not have one high-efficiency low-emissions coal-fired power station, he said.

Coal-fired power plants dominate the country's power sector, making Australia one of the world's biggest carbon emitters on a per capita basis.

The renewed focus on clean-coal has drawn criticism from the Australian Labor and Green parties, who have accused the Government of trying to protect "the coal club".

Opposition spokesman for climate change and energy Mark Butler said a preference for coal over renewables would mean higher power bills for Australians.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the cleanest form of electricity would remain wind and solar, while raising concerns about the cost of new base-load coal plants.

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