Ashley Dodd, the chief executive of Shine Energy — an indigenous owned company proposing a new 1000 megawatt “clean” coal plant in Collinsville in central Queensland — says the government’s $1bn injection into the Clean Energy Finance Corporation fund should have its mandate broadened to include High Efficiency Low Emissions coal fired plants.
The Morrison government’s funding boost, revealed by The Australian on Wednesday, will be used to turbocharge the development of next-generation electricity production and upgrade the transmission network to future-proof the energy grid and drive down prices.
Mr Dodd told The Australian on Wednesday the government’s biggest priority should be securing the reliability of the national energy grid and urged it to expand the fund to replace older thermal coal generators with HELE fired power plants.
“The investment mandate should be broadened and have a specific focus on securing the reliability of the network to replace the older thermal coal generators with the new high efficiency low emissions coal fired power plants, thus ensuring the integrity of the national network and also the market,” Mr Dodd said.
“That should be the priority of any incumbent government, otherwise we lose our heavy industry and they will shift offshore.”
The Australian revealed on Wednesday the funding boost, which cannot be used for new or upgraded coal-fired projects, was approved after the government identified a lack of investment in dispatchable generation and the need to combat future energy pressures.
Eligible investments include energy storage projects, incorporating pumped hydro and batteries, transmission and distribution infrastructure, grid-stabilising technologies and 12 projects short-listed under the government’s Underwriting New Generation Investments program.
It comes after a robust discussion between Resources Minister Matt Canavan and Scott Morrison last week over the rollout of the Collinsville generator, which was promised a $10 million feasibility study in the lead up to the May election.
But Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack denied the government had been dragging its feet over the study.
“It’s only been five months since we’ve been re-elected,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.
“I would say it would be probably early in the new year. It’s already nearly November, so that’s only a couple of months away,” he said. “That’s a fairly good timeline.”
Nationals MP Keith Pitt on Wednesday echoed Mr Dodd’s concerns surrounding the scope of the CEFC, saying he would raise expanding the fund’s mandate to consider other energy sources, including HELE and nuclear, at the next Nationals’ party room.
“I welcome the investment the Federal government has taken because of the ridiculous actions taken by previous Labor state governments,” Mr Pitt told The Australian. “But the mandate should be technologically agnostic and employ all technologies to secure the energy network, including HELE, coal, carbon capture and storage, and if it looks viable, potentially nuclear.”
“It will be discussed in the Nats’ party room and we will take an opportunity to get their [my colleague’s] views.”
PM’s $1bn energy bet wins Turnbull’s praise
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull seized on the cash injection to lash his predecessor, Tony Abbott, for initially scrapping the fund.
Tweeting about the expansion of the CEFC on Wednesday, Mr Turnbull praised the Prime Minister’s new fund as a “good move.”
But the former prime minister said it was “worth recalling” the Abbott government had previously axed the fund intended to future-proof the grid and drive down prices.
“Good call by Scott Morrison Govt (government) to put an extra $1 billion into the Clean Energy Corporation fund — worth recalling that it was the Abbott Govt’s policy to abolish it and that one of my first decisions in 2015 was to retain it. Good progress,” he wrote.
Mr Turnbull said while the announcement was “good”, “much more” government action was needed when it came to securing the energy grid.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese welcomed the move on Wednesday, declaring the government had “finally come around to the realisation” that the CEFC promoted clean energy while producing an economic return.
Opposition climate change and energy spokesman Mark Butler said Labor was “supportive” of the fund and keen to see it grow, but lashed the current policy as the government’s 17th energy policy which would “do nothing” to lower power prices for Australian households and businesses.