It was announced today by Origin Energy, that they have submitted for approval from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to close the Eraring coal-fired power plant in the NSW Hunter Valley region in 2025, seven years earlier than the originally planned year of 2032. The Eraring plant is Origins only coal fired facility and is Australia’s largest.
“Origin’s proposed exit from coal-fired generation reflects the continuing, rapid transition of the National Energy Market (NEM) as we move to cleaner sources of energy,” said Origin’s chief executive, Frank Calabria. The Eraring power plant represents 20 per cent of NSW generation output towards the NEM and employs 400 local and contracted workers.
The announcement follows those made last week by energy company AGL, which has brought forward the closure dates of two of their coal fired power plants. These are the Bayswater plant in NSW, with its closure date brought forward to 2033 from 2035, and the Loy Yang A plant in the Victorian Latrobe valley, now slated to close in 2045 instead of 2048. The expedited closure dates come as the growth of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, expand in their capacity to service Australian industry and households.
Matt Kean, the NSW Energy Minister, responded to today’s news by saying “Origin approached me about the possibility of this decision a number of months ago”. Mr Kean further stated “During that time, we’ve worked to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with the possibility of todays decision. That plan will involve making sure that we focus on keeping reliability of the system and that we put downward pressure on prices.”
The plan proposed includes the construction of a 700-megawatt transmission battery in the Hunter-Central Coast region, which will be, according to Mr Kean “the biggest battery in the Southern Hemisphere.” Origin have also said that they will build a 700 MW battery on the Eraring site once the plant has been decommissioned.
The federal energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, released a statement saying that the closure is “bitterly disappointing for all energy users – from households to small businesses to heavy industry – who rely on affordable, reliable energy to prosper.”
On the other side of the political spectrum, Labor’s shadow minister for climate change and energy Chris Bowen, praised the announcement.
“Labor welcomes the NSW Government’s commitments to build a big battery to ensure reliability, and to bring forward new generation capacity to ensure affordability,” he said in a statement.
As both arms of government rushed to provide statements assuring electricity customers across NSW of stable prices and grid reliability, environmental groups hailed the move as timely and necessary.
“Origin’s announcement is a ray of hope for leaving a safe climate for our children,” Nature conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said in a statement.
Over its lifetime generating power in NSW, the plant had emitted 69 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The closure of the plant and transition to cleaner sources of power, will avoid an estimated total of a further 87 million tonnes of carbon emissions, he said.
Federal Greens leader, Adam Bandt, was willing to congratulate the decision but was also adamant on the need for further action.
“We urgently need a national climate and energy plan to manage this accelerating shift from coal. Liberal and Labor need to quit lying to coal workers and their local communities about a future for coal and join the Greens with a plan for the future.”