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Prime Minister visits Hunter to reveal energy plan

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Energy companies need to step up and fill the gap left by the closure of Liddell power station, or the Federal Government will act.

That’s the message from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, which he delivered during a visit to Westrac Tomago on Tuesday.

In an address to the Hunter Business Chamber, Mr Morrison said a taskforce had assessed the potential impacts of Liddell’s closure in 2023 and found wholesale prices could jump by 30%, or $20 per megawatt (MW) hour, if the station’s capacity was not replaced before it shuts down.  

“We estimate that some 1,000 MW of new dispatchable generation is needed to keep prices down, and we intend to do something about it,” he said.

“While the private sector has announced projects which could fill this gap, it has committed to very few. COVID has challenged investment metrics, but the physical realities of ageing generators mean we can’t just hope for the best.

“So, this is the plan. If the energy companies choose to step up and make these investments to create that capacity, great, we will step back.

“If not, my government will step up, and we will fill the gap.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks with Managing Director and Snowy Hydro Chief Executive Paul Broad.

Managing Director and Chief Executive of Commonwealth-owned Snowy Hydro, Paul Broad, said the body was developing plans to build a gas generator on the site of the former Hydro Aluminium smelter site at Kurri Kurri.

“The site we have is very close to the Sydney Newcastle pipeline, it’s very close to transmission lines, we have done a lot of background work to make sure, if we get the green light, we are ready to roll.”

Mr Morrison said the Federal Government would prefer not to step in.

“That is not our Plan A. But nor will we shy away from taking action to protect consumers and support jobs, including here in this region and so many like it,” he said.

Hunter Business Chamber Chief Executive, Bob Hawes, said the visit from the Prime Minister was positive for future investment in the region.

“If we have other projects and initiatives up here – be it hydrogen, solar, wind, whatever they are – and they stack up and make sense and there’s investment there ready to get behind them, let’s do it,” Mr Hawes said.

“We shouldn’t be waiting for cues from government if projects do make sense and we shouldn’t be waiting for decisions about ending one form of energy before we take up another.”

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