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Critics say Kurri Kurri plant makes no ‘commercial sense’

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A large gas-fired power station labelled “unnecessary and dangerous” by critics has been approved by the NSW Government.

Outgoing Minister for Planning Rob Stokes on Monday signed off the state-owned Snowy Hydro’s application to build the 660-megawatt open cycle gas turbine at Kurri Kurri on the site of an old aluminium smelter.

“This project will improve energy reliability and security in the National Energy Market as it brings on renewable energy from wind and solar farms, and transitions away from coal-fired power generation over the next 10-15 years,” a planning department spokesperson said in a statement.

Despite only operating an average of one hour in every 50, the plant is forecast to inject $600 million into the state economy and create up to 250 new construction jobs, the department said.

The $600 million project came with the backing of the Morrison government, which argues it is necessary to keep power prices down once the 2000-megawatt Liddell coal-fired power station, located between Singleton and Muswellbrook, closes in 2023.

But, the Climate Council and Gas Free Hunter Alliance have both lambasted the approval of what it calls an “unnecessary and dangerous” power station.

“Approving Kurri Kurri is an all-round dismal move for Australians at a time when the rest of the world is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cashing in on the clean job and economic opportunities of a net-zero future,” Climate Council senior researcher Tim Baxter said. 

Climate Councillor and energy transition academic Madeline Taylor said the gas power station simply wasn’t needed.

“Energy analysts and economists agree it will raise electricity prices for residents and businesses, not lower them,” she stated.

The Gas Free Hunter Alliance said the approval showed total disregard to the hundreds of locals who opposed the development.

“It looks like we know what we’re getting for Christmas,” representative Fiona Lee expressed.

“I am outraged the Kurri Kurri plant has been approved.

“Even the conservative International Energy Agency has said there can be no new gas projects if we are to reach net zero goals and try to avoid the increasingly catastrophic effects of climate change.

“The local community deserves a clear plan from the Morrison government to transition away from our dependency on fossil fuel employment, instead of lumping our community with this expensive out-of-date dinosaur that will only provide ten ongoing jobs at a cost of $600 million of public money.

“It is particularly disturbing that this project has received the greenlight from the NSW Government after it has made commitments to net zero emissions by 2050.”

As the Department of Planning hands over the approval for the Kurri Kurri plant, the Gas Free Hunter Alliance says it will throw its efforts behind creating barriers for this gas project.

“I am an ex-TAFE teacher and grandmother who has lived in Mulbring (near Kurri) for 14 years,” volunteer Lyn Benn said.

“In a time when we need to rapidly move away from fossil fuels, I cannot see that this proposed gas-powered plant makes sense from any angle.

“I’m worried about what it means for my grandkids’ futures.

“But, I am most incensed at the waste of public money.

“If it makes sense then let private enterprise build it.

“For that amount of money, we could safeguard Kurri hospital, give our local bush fire brigades a much-needed boost or provide something for the local kids to do.

“Let’s look to the future, not the past.”

The project will now be submitted to the federal government for final approval.

If approved, the plant could be running by mid-2023, ahead of Liddell’s closure.

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