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AGL early closure of coal stations good step forward: Bowen

Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen has welcomed the decision by AGL to close all of its coal-fired power stations by 2035.

September 29, 2022
By Andrew Brown
29 September 2022

Energy Minister Chris Bowen says AGL’s decision to close its coal-fired power stations early is a good step forward.

It comes after the country’s largest electricity generator said it would shut down all its coal-fired generators by 2035.

The announcement also means Loy Yang A power station, which provides almost one-third of Victoria’s power, will close a decade earlier than previously planned.

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While launching a climate business hub in Sydney on Thursday, Bowen said news of the early closures was positive.

“I recognise AGL’s very significant announcements today, which are very welcome,” he said.
“(It’s) a good step forward for one of our largest energy companies.”

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the closures were in part due to renewable energy sources becoming cheaper.

Plibersek said in Melbourne that a big effort would be needed as part of the energy transition.

“The reason this transition is happening is because the cheapest form of energy in Australia and globally now is renewable energy,” she said.

“The transition Australia will be making will require extraordinary investment in things like transmission lines and storage, as we move to cleaner, cheaper premium, but we’re up for that as the federal government.

“We need to use the coming years to invest in transmission storage upgrades.”

However, the federal opposition described the decision as disappointing.

“The peak energy bodies identified the early withdrawal of coal as one of the reasons prices will continue to soar and will remain high under Labor’s current policy settings.”

Opposition energy spokesman Ted O’Brien

Opposition energy spokesman Ted O’Brien said the closures would cause electricity prices to soar.

“It is devastating for the more than 1000 workers in the Latrobe Valley and Muswellbrook regions and will impact the livelihoods of thousands more workers and businesses across the local economies,” he said in a statement.

“The peak energy bodies identified the early withdrawal of coal as one of the reasons prices will continue to soar and will remain high under Labor’s current policy settings.”

O’Brien said the closures would leave a hole in the electricity market, and warned of reliability issues going forward.

The Federal Opposition argues the coal-fired power station closures will cause energy prices to soar. (Asanka Ratnayake/Getty)

Former resources minister Keith Pitt lashed out at AGL’s decision.

“This is what happens when you get activist shareholders. I mean, they’re going to close it and replace it with nothing,” the Nationals MP told Sky News on Thursday.

“(The generators) are critical to the country and the economy, that have worked successfully for many, many years at very affordable prices, and yet they’re getting thrown down the river.”

Greens industry spokeswoman Penny Allman-Payne welcomed the closures.

However, she said a co-ordinated plan was needed to make the transition to renewables.

“Without a national body to plan and co-ordinate our shift to renewable energy, the workers and communities who have for generations relied on the jobs and investment the coal industry has provided will be left behind,” Allman-Payne said.

“We know from similar energy transition bodies in Europe that if you plan the transition, workers can move into new, well-paid jobs, be redeployed through industry-wide pooling, or benefit from early retirement.”

The Greens have called for a national energy transition authority.

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