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Eraring: Power station’s lifeline criticised by climate, environmental groups

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A decision to provide the Eraring Power Station a two-year lifeline has been criticised by climate and environmental groups.

The Lake Macquarie site was due to close in 2025 as part of the state’s move towards renewable energy.

But, a deal between the NSW Government and Origin Energy will extend its operations until 19 August 2027, amid concerns about shortfalls in the energy grid.

That outcome has angered several groups, including the Hunter Jobs Alliance (HJA) and Climate Council.

“The 2025 closure for Eraring has been earmarked for some time,” HJA coordinator Justin Page said.

“Local workers have been waiting in earnest for guaranteed job protections during the transition.

“Yet, the Net Zero Authority legislation has not passed parliament and NSW Transition Authority still don’t have any formal framework for hundreds of employees both at Eraring and at the mines, which supply coal to the power station. 

“NSW is dragging the chain both in the energy transition and the employment support required to ensure no one is left behind.

“Extending Eraring is only going to make matters worse.

“With the Hunter’s workforce and manufacturing capabilities, we are a key region for industrial and employment growth in the energy transition economy.

“However, our governments can’t keep sitting on their hands and being reactive in their decision making; the hard-working people of the Hunter deserve better than that.”

The Climate Council labelled the NSW Government’s decision as “a failure of climate leadership”.

“It’s actually a triple whammy,” economist Nicki Hutley said.

“It fails policy, it fails climate leadership and it fails to protect the health and wellbeing of communities across NSW and the nation.

“As a result, every NSW taxpayer will bear the financial burden of this decision, which undermines climate targets for both NSW and Australia and delays the shift to cleaner, lower cost energy.”

Head of policy and advocacy Dr Jennifer Rayner explained the science was clear.

“Every tonne of coal burned pushes us closer to climate disaster,” she said.

“The latest analysis from the energy market operator shows solar, wind and storage projects in the pipeline can more than meet the electricity needs of every home and business in NSW.

“Keeping the coal fires burning at Eraring sends the wrong message when urgent action is needed to fight the climate crisis.

“This must never happen again – in NSW or any other state.

“Governments must now throw everything at accelerating the shift to renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

“This will create new clean energy jobs, help lower power bills and, most importantly, tackle the climate crisis.”

Nexa Advisory principal Stephanie Bashir admitted it was disappointing to see the extension of Eraring.

“Keeping this coal-fired power station open jeopardises our emission reduction targets and imposes unnecessary costs on energy consumers,” she said.

“But, the NSW Government has left itself no choice. 

“Rather than focusing their efforts on extending an old, unreliable coal-fired power station, they should be focusing on practical solutions, which remain untapped and can help address forecasted reliability gaps.

“The NSW Government should be accelerating demand response measures, leveraging the potential 1.1GW of demand-side management from commercial and industrial consumers, as well as residential consumer energy uptake. 

“These practical solutions are not only actionable before 2025, but also provide NSW with additional insurance against extreme weather and electricity reliability events which will become more common whether Eraring is extended or not.  

“The federal and state governments must also prioritise and streamline planning, approving and connecting new renewable generation, storage and transmission projects. 

“Nexa Advisory’s recent analysis reveals that energy consumers in NSW are set to pay an extra $106 each per year by 2027 than they would if the state government had enabled a faster, orderly rollout of renewable energy generation and storage.

“However, that’s not all — NSW taxpayers will be paying the cost of $120-150m a year to Origin Energy to keep Eraring open.”

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