September 23rd 2017


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Labor's vision for a transgender world

EDITORIAL Liddell closure: acid test for Turnbull

EUTHANASIA We risk turning our doctors into death dealers

DOCUMENTARY Harvested Alive: killing Falung Gong in China

AGENDA FOR AUSTRALIA Distorted jobless stats defeat planning efforts

ENVIRONMENT Hurricane Harvey: don't let a good disaster go to waste

AFL GRAND FINAL Bob Santamaria predicted the sunset of Aussie Rules

HISTORY After 500 years, is sugar going sour?

IDEOLOGY OF TRANSGENDERISM Reshaping our identities and relationships

MUSIC The Sequence: it's elementary

CINEMA The Hitman's Bodyguard: 'Eighties' action with popcorn

BOOK REVIEW One of globalisation's dwindling band

POETRY

HUMOUR

LETTERS

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE For bullying, look left, look left, and then look left again

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EDITORIAL
Liddell closure: acid test for Turnbull


by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, September 23, 2017

Faced with soaring power prices, a warning by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) that eastern Australia faces the prospect of power blackouts as early as next summer, and a long-term crisis over the projected closure of AGL’s Liddell Power Station in the NSW Hunter Valley in 2022, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called for continued power generation from the plant for at least another five years.

The future of the Liddell Power Station has emerged as a litmus test for both the Government and the Opposition.

Within months of the closure of the coal-fired base-load Northern Power Station in South Australia last year, South Australia experienced a massive increase in electricity prices and then two significant blackouts.

After the closure of Victoria’s Hazel­wood Power Station early in 2017, power prices soared across the integrated eastern states power grid, and AEMO has warned of serious power shortages in both Victoria and South Australia which could lead to blackouts in both states.

The latest warning from AEMO that the long-announced closure of the 2,000-megawatt Liddell Power Station in 2022 would aggravate cost pressures in the market and threaten reliability of supply, seems to have been a wake-up call for Mr Turnbull, and his Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, who stood by while large base-load power stations were shut down in SA and Victoria.

Fat profits

Liddell is owned by AGL Energy, one of Australia’s largest energy companies.

Liddell was built in the early 1970s and sold for a song to AGL by the NSW government-owned generator, Macquarie Energy, in 2014. The following year, AGL announced that the Liddell plant would be shut down in 2022.

Although the company’s advertisements and website give the impression that the company is at the forefront of wind and solar energy, it actually produces most of its electricity and generates most of its profits from coal-fired power stations such as Liddell in NSW and Loy Yang in Victoria. Reportedly, over 80 per cent of its earnings came from coal-generated power.

AGL has publicly declared that it supports an end to generating electricity from coal, as part of its contribution to combating “climate change”.

The Australian recently revealed that the head of AGL’s government and community relations unit is Tony Chappel, who worked for Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and graduated from the project’s leadership program.

Chappel, a former NSW president of the Young Liberals, has been assisting AGL chief executive Andy Vesey to organise AGL’s “orderly transition” out of coal-fired power generation, including the Liddell closure. (The Australian, September 8, 2017)

Another executive at AGL is Skye Laris,who was previously GetUp’s campaign director, IT manager for the ALP, and staffer for Labor frontbencher Tony Burke. Laris is currently senior manager, public advocacy, at AGL Energy, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Chappel and Laris have clearly been driving AGL’s self-promotion as a green energy provider – even though the company makes most of its money from coal-fired power generation.

AGL has the bests of all worlds. It claims the high moral ground and enhances its green credentials by closing the Liddell Power Station. This will have the effects of pushing up electricity prices for consumers, and increasing the company’s profits!

The impact on states that now depend on NSW power, particularly SA and Victoria, is potentially dire, and makes a mockery of the Turnbull Government’s claim that it would ensure affordable and reliable power across Australia.

The looming crisis energised the PM to call AGL’s Mr Vesey to Canberra to try to persuade him to avert the closure of Liddell. The Government’s spin on the outcome of the meeting was that AGL had agreed to reconsider the closure.

AGL offered a diiferent interpretation. Mr Vesey said that building coal-fired power stations was “not economically rational”, but he had agreed “to take to the AGL board the Government’s request to continue the operation of Liddell post-2022 for five years and/or sell Liddell”.

He said: “Following today’s meeting with the Prime Minister, we have committed to deliver a plan in 90 days of the actions AGL will take to avoid a market shortfall once the Liddell coal-fired power station retires in 2022.”

Its new plan apparently includes new gas-fired power generation, thereby increasing demand for gas in the over-priced gas market. It is clear from this that AGL does not have the intention to maintain base-load power generation from coal.

There are other companies willing and able to step up to the mark, by taking over Liddell. In the interests of Australian energy consumers, it is now incumbent on Mr Turnbull and his Energy Minister to make it happen.

Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.




























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