The Nationals have taken aim at Labor for the lengthy setback in the construction of the Hunter Power Project at Kurri Kurri.
The gas-fired facility was announced in May 2021 to fill the gap in electricity demand, and ensure security of supply, following the 2023 closure of the Liddell Power Station, located between Muswellbrook and Singleton.
But, Snowy Hydro CEO Dennis Barnes recently advised Senate Estimates the development was 12 months behind schedule with final power now due in December 2024.
Joining Nationals leader David Littleproud and Cessnock candidate Ash Barnham in Newcastle on Tuesday 28 February, Senator Ross Cadell criticised the federal government’s role in the delays.
“Labor has taken a simple $600 million project to protect power supply by the end of this year and potentially turned it into a $1.7 billion white elephant that won’t be ready to fill the hole left by Liddell’s closure,” he said.
“That’s more than a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money that will produce not one kilowatt of extra energy.
“The Hunter deserves better; the Hunter needs better.
“And, we want to ask these questions about what will happen this winter and next summer when we turn the power points on and there’s nothing there.
“So, that’s why we are really here [in the Hunter], to get to the bottom of what this (Chris) Bowen-spec plant will do.
“At the moment it’s burning taxpayers’ money instead of gas… and hydrogen.”
Mr Littleproud labelled the situation a “real-life episode of Utopia” unfolding before everyone’s eyes.
“This project is a thorn in Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen’s side,” he said.
“The plant should have been up and running, putting capacity into our energy system.
“However, because of the ideology of Mr Bowen and Anthony Albanese, they’ve slowed it down.
“They’ve slowed down the jobs, they’ve slowed down the supply.
“And, that means when supply goes down, your prices go up.
“I’ll admit, I have a vested interest in this [project].
“I have the Surat Basin in Queensland, that’s prepared to drill more holes to send domestic gas to increase supply, to reduce your energy bills.
“We’ve got Liddell shutting down in less than a month.
“That’ll be 13% of New South Wales’ energy market that is gone.
“We can, in the Surat Basin, put 10% of the East Coast’s energy market needs with Senex’s billion-dollar project, we can put it through here and they’ll double that 60 petajoules to 120 pedicures.”
Mr Littleproud warned Hunter residents they would see a 30% increase in their electricity bills due to Labor’s incompetence.
“That’s because Liddell is shutting and Mr Bowen and Mr Albanese decided to re-look at a gas plant and try and turn it into hydrogen that hasn’t even got here yet,” he said.
“This is the ideology, which doesn’t match the practicality of what’s coming out of your wallet.
“And, so what we’re saying is, let’s use this thing called common sense.
“Take it to Canberra, understand that you need to put the foot on the accelerator, get this gas plant up and going.
“You need to send the investment signals to our gas companies to continue to put supply in.
“They are prepared.
“So long as you don’t put the price caps and all the specs around them, that takes away that investment confidence.
“This is just common sense.
“But, you’re all paying for it and you’re going to pay a lot more because of the ideology not meeting the practical reality and the people of Hunter can be the solution.
“This is the answer to the energy crisis right here, by putting more gas into it.
“We can get it in… and we need it to happen very soon.
“Cause when Liddell shuts down, you’ll probably be able to keep turning the switch on, but you’re going to pay a lot more for it.”
Mr Barnham, who is eyeing off the state seat of Cessnock at the NSW Election on 25 March, added good intentions “don’t keep the lights on”.
“Throwing more than a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money away to meet an uninformed and impractical promise is criminal,” he said.
“Last Friday, during an interview on ABC Newcastle Breakfast, Mr Bowen was questioned about the project running over time, to which he simply replied: ‘The delay is just a delay’; and if Labor would meet their green hydrogen commitment, his response was ‘it’s complicated’.
“Mr Bowen is a prime example of why Labor cannot be trusted and is unfit to govern in NSW.”
For more news stories:
- Pledge to boost skills, create jobs in the Hunter
- Liberal candidate Megan Anderson vows to fight for Swansea
- Hunter offshore wind farm consultation process ‘the real deal’, says Bowen
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