Coalition's obsession with Liddell sends mixed messages on energy
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Coalition's obsession with Liddell sends mixed messages on energy

The Turnbull Government's obsession with keeping Liddell Power Station going at almost any cost sends mixed messages about its allegedly source-agnostic energy policy.

While high profile back bencher, Tony Abbott, has repeatedly questioned Mr Turnbull's claims to be indifferent to where power comes from, citing Snowy 2.0 as proof he is in the renewables camp, the push to force the sale of Liddell to anybody willing to keep it going suggests the opposite.

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While the Coalition has repeatedly said it has no intention of using taxpayer dollars to subsidise either the overhaul or the future operation of Liddell, these assurances need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Given its current owners, AGL, don't think a life-extension beyond 2022 is economically viable, it would be a brave operator who took the plant on without a guarantee of contingency funding from the public purse.

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Having failed to convince AGL, to extend the life of the Muswellbrook plant last year, the Federal Coalition Government tried a new tack by bringing pressure to bear on the company to sell it on to a more pliable operator.

That led to last December's announcement AGL would definitely be closing Liddell in 2022. The move would save it billions of dollars and reduce its carbon footprint by 17.6 per cent.

The economics of keeping the station going another five years as the Government wanted just didn't add up.

It could replace the 1680 megawatts of baseload power generated at the plant with a mix of renewable, battery storage, high efficiency gas generators and an upgrade to the Bayswater power station at a cost of $83/Mwh.

Power from a reanimated Liddell would cost $106/Mwh; almost 25 per cent more.

While AGL is apparently standing firm on its position the plant is not for sale it may soon be receiving offers it can't refuse with at least two potential bidders signalling interest.

They include Alinta, which was sold to China's Chow Tai Fook Enterprises just over a year ago, and Delta Electricity, an Australian company.

The latest flurry of interest has come hot on the heels of news a clique of Coalition die-hard conservatives, reportedly including Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, Craig Kelly, Barnaby Joyce and Craig Kelly, had formed a pro-coal "Monash Forum".

The existence of the new pressure group, which could be seen as a possible springboard for a challenge to Mr Turnbull's Prime Ministership, was announced on Sky News on Monday by Peta Credlin, Mr Abbott's former chief of staff.

The real story here is that the Coalition's discredited right wing rump continues to fight Australia's inevitable, and overdue, transition to renewables tooth and nail for reasons of its own.

The tragedy is that investments in alternative technologies, such as the one outlined by AGL to replace Liddell, would help grow clean energy technologies we could sell to the world.

Australia is blessed with an abundance of solar, wind, hydro and even tidal power options, as well as smart people working on cutting edge technology. This is an opportunity to be grasped, if only our leaders can start looking forwards, rather than backwards.

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