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Innovation program nudges NSW closer to net zero emissions

The NSW Government’s $750 million Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program over the next 10 years will accelerate the transition from carbon-intense to a carbon-neutral manufacturing and mining and support new jobs. [1] 

“The program will contribute at least $70 million towards the creation of hydrogen-energy hubs in the Hunter and Illawarra, which will be great for jobs and the environment,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“The green hydrogen industry has incredible potential, but at the moment it is still in its infancy. 

“Just like the rooftop solar sector 10 years ago, it needs government support to get it through the early stages until the industry and the market matures and brings down costs.  

“Pumping $70 million into green hydrogen hubs in the Hunter and Illawarra is a smart investment. 

“This investment will not only create a new industry in NSW, it will support a whole supply chain of downstream industries like steel and fertilizer with a clean feedstock.  

“Importantly, the package includes money for energy-intensive industries like cement and aluminium, sectors that must make a significant contribution if we are going to hit the zero net emissions target by 2030. 

Energy Minister Matt Kean announced on Monday the $750 million program would support research and development into new clean technologies and help existing industries reduce their carbon footprint. 

The $750 million in funding will be allocated over 10 years to three key areas:  

  • $380 million to help industries re-tool with low-emissions technologies; 

  • $175 million to set up low-carbon industries, including green hydrogen; and, 

  • $195 million for research and development of new clean technologies. 

 The Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program dovetails with the government’s Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, released late last year, which will link new renewable energy zones to the grid and slash the state’s reliance on coal-fired power generation.  

References 


Coal power stations still emitting dangerous levels of air pollution

New National Pollutant Inventory data show toxic air emissions from the state’s coal-fired power stations fell 15% in the year to June 2020, but they are still among the most polluting industrial facilities in NSW. [1] 

During the 2020 financial year, coal-fired power stations at Lithgow, on the Central Coast and in the Hunter Valley spewed out more than 268,000 tonnes of toxic air pollution including: 

  • 102,000 tonnes of nitrogen oxides; 
  • 153,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide; 
  • 1,312 tonnes of coarse particles (PM10); and   
  • 358 tonnes of fine particles (PM2.5). 

Coal-fired power stations are still among the most polluting industrial facilities in NSW,” Nature  
Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“All these pollutants have a huge impact on people’s health so these facilities must clean up their operations and shut as soon as possible. 

“The 15% reduction in emissions is very welcome, these facilities are still major source of dangerous airborne toxins, including oxides of nitrogen and sulphur and fine particleswhich all cause serious respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. 

On the Central Coast alone, pollution from coal-fired power stations causes asthma in 650 children. 

“The total health impact of this industry on families is colossal, especially in the Hunter, on the Central Coast and across western Sydney where many of these emissions end up. 

NSW Power Station Emissions, 2019-20 (tonnes) 

 

NOx     

SOx     

Particles 10um     

Particles 2.5um     

Total    

Bayswater     

28,421     

35,795     

377    

82    

64,675    

Liddell     

24,348     

37,243     

410    

108    

62,109    

Eraring     

20,077     

39,000     

330    

103    

59,510    

Vales     

18,000     

20,000     

86    

31    

38,117    

Mt Piper     

11,033     

20,900     

109    

34    

32,076    

TOTAL     

101,879     

152,938     

1,312    

358     

256,488    

Climate pollution from NSW coal power stations fell by 4.1 million tonnes of COin the reporting period, equivalent to replacing 1.3 million petrol cars with electric vehicles, about a third of the NSW passenger vehicle fleet.  

References 


Numbers don’t stack up for Angus Place Colliery expansion

Angus Place Colliery near Lithgow may soon be a worthless stranded asset because its main customer, Mt Piper power station, could be broke by 2025, new economic analysis shows.

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has released a report today that shows Mt Piper power station, owned by Energy Australia, losing $50 million a year by 2025. 

The analysis echoes comments made by Australian Energy Security Board Chairperson Kerry Schott last week, who said coal-fired power stations “will probably go four or five years earlier [than their scheduled closure date] because they are not making any money and they may go before that”. [2] 

“It is hard to imagine Energy Australia wearing $50m annual losses for long before they decide to pull the pin,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“If that happens, the Angus Place Colliery expansion will be a white elephant — a stranded asset and a toxic legacy.” 

The NSW Planning Department is currently considering a proposal to expand the Angus Place Colliery to supply Mt Piper power station.

“The NSW Government should reject the Angus Place application because the economic argument, which was always flimsy, is getting weaker every time there is a new report,” Mr Gambian said. 

“The expansion plans don’t stack up, not in terms of the ecology, the economics or the climate.

“This mine expansion would cause a local ecological catastrophe by draining and killing rare wetlands, and for what? It seems unlikely to even keep Mt Piper going.

“There are huge opportunities beyond coal for communities like Lithgow, but they will require investment by the government and business.

“Lithgow can’t reach its post-coal potential alone - it needs substantial support from the state and federal governments. That support is conspicuously lacking.

“Change in our energy systems is gathering pace so coal communities need government help to get on board or they will be left behind.

“Germany has created a 40 billion euro fund to help its coal communities develop new economic opportunities. 

“We need something similar to ensure our communities don’t suffer because of the rapid international shift away from coal.

“We call on the NSW government to set aside a substantial fund, with billions of dollars to ensure no worker is left high and dry and that coal mining regions will have sufficient resources to adapt economically.”

References

[1] Fast Erosion of Coal Plant Profits in the National Electricity Market, IEEFA, February 2021. See Figure 1, page 3. 

[2] Coal power stations going broke: Schott, AFR, 16-2-21


Only one power station in the Hunter/Central Coast region to be profitable by 2025?

Two of the three coal-fired power stations likely to be still running the Hunter and Central Coast regions by 2025 could be worthless stranded assets, new economic analysis shows.

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has released a report today that shows Eraring and Vales Point B power stations will be running multi-million dollar annual losses by 2025. [1] 

Only Bayswater is forecast to turn a profit, but that could be as little as $100m a year, $500 million less a year than in 2018.

The analysis echoes comments last week by Australian Energy Security Board Chairperson Kerry Schott who said coal-fired power stations “will probably go four or five years earlier [than their scheduled closure date] because they are not making any money and they may go before that”. [2] 

Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said: “The people of the Hunter region are being let down by political leaders who have failed to prepare for the inevitable changes facing their community.

“There are huge opportunities beyond coal for the Hunter community, but they will require investment by the government and business.

“The Hunter region can’t reach its post-coal potential alone — it needs substantial support from the state and federal governments. That support is conspicuously lacking.

“Change in our energy systems is gathering pace so coal communities need government help to get on board or they will be left behind.

“Germany created a 40 billion euro fund to help its coal communities develop new economic opportunities, and Poland last week announced a $20b transition package to ensure communities aren’t left stranded . 

“We need something similar to ensure our communities don’t suffer because of the rapid international shift away from coal.

“We call on the NSW and Federal governments to set aside a substantial fund, with billions of dollars to ensure no worker is left high and dry and to create jobs in coal regions.”

References

[1] Fast Erosion of Coal Plant Profits in the National Electricity Market, IEEFA, February 2021. See Figure 1, page 3. 

[2] Coal power stations going broke: Schott, AFR, 16-2-21

 


EPA agrees to consult Central Coast residents on Vales Point asthma pollution levels

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has agreed to public consultation before determining whether to let Vales Point power station keep emitting high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) for another five years.

Under pressure from Central Coast families, local community group Future Sooner and the Nature Conservation Council, the EPA agreed that members of the public and health and environment groups should have a say. 

“This is a great outcome for the Central Coast community, especially children with asthma who are at the front line in terms of health impacts,” NCC Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“We are very keen to engage constructively and help residents participate in the consultation process so they get the results they deserve.” 

EPA Chief Executive Officer Tracy Mackey has written to NCC conceding “there is benefit in seeking public submissions on the proposal”, even if it is not legally required. 

“For 10 years, the EPA has exempted Vales Point from the Clean Air Regulation, allowing it to emit NO2 at twice the rate of other facilities,” Mr Gambian said. 

“The company has applied for another five-year exemption but the community has had enough. 

“People want Vales Point to clean up its act so their kids can breathe easy.”

 In January 2021, Newcastle epidemiologist Dr Ben Ewald found that about 650 kids on the Central Coast had asthma because of NO2 emissions from coal-fired power stations.  [1]

NCC, Future Sooner and local residents want the EPA to reject Vales’ application.

“Vales could instal NO2 burners for $33 million and operate them for $2.5 million a year, which is peanuts for a company that last year made $141 million profit before tax,” Mr Gambian said. [2] [3]

“Local residents should not be forced to pay for coal-fired power with health, especially when the owners of Vales can clearly afford to make their facility safe for kids.”

REFERENCES 

[1] Power station NO2 emissions and paediatric asthma in Central Coast, Hunter Valley and Sydney Local Government Areas, briefing note by Dr Ben Ewald, January 2021

[2] Jacobs report, GIPA EPA431, table ES-2, page 10

[3] Vales Point power station’s billionaire beggars receive $62 million dividend for FY2019-20, NCC media release, 1-12-20  


Mount Pleasant expansion is dirty and dangerous and should be rejected

The NSW Planning Department must reject the application to double production of the Mount Pleasant open-cut coal mine near Muswellbrook because it will have unacceptable health and climate impacts. [1] 

“With three mines basically on the edge of town, people who live in Muswellbrook are already choking on coal dust and some of the worse air quality in Australia,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.  

“Dust from coal mining is the leading cause of very high rates of respiratory disease in the town.

Air quality in Muswellbrook has breached the national standards for fine particles (PM2.5) every year since the standard was introduced. [2] 

“Muswellbrook locals need clean air, not more coal. This project will not only be bad for people’s health, it will be bad for the climate. 

“Coal is stoking the fires of climate change, which is a threat to our way of life, to our native plants and animals, and to our economy. 

“We need to be planning for the future, not living in the past. We should be investing in our clean, renewable energy future, not opening or expanding coals mines. 

“The bushfire season last year that wiped out a third of our koalas and killed possibly billions of native animals was made more extreme by climate change. 

“We cannot afford to stoke the fires of climate change any more.

The Hunter desperately needs a plan for the jobs and economic growth of the future.  

“Propping up the coal industry as the world moves away from coal is a betrayal of the next generation of Australians who need us to be planning for their prosperity now. 

“We know all too well that the mining industry will shut mines down when they don’t make money. What happens then? 

“The aggressively pro-coal agenda being pushed by the likes of Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon is shortsighted and dangerous.”  

Other mines close to Muswellbrook are Mt Arthur and Bengalla. 

References 

[1] Mount Pleasant Optimisation Project, NSW Planning Department   

[2] See for example NSW Annual Air Quality Statement 2018, pp17-18 

 


Time to ban mining in all drinking water catchments in NSW

The Nature Conservation Council calls for a legislated ban on mining in all drinking water catchments in NSW following the Independent Planning Commission’s decision to reject the Dendrobium coal mine expansion today. 

“The Dendrobium decision is a victory for commonsense and for the many people who have campaigned for years to protect our water supplies,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.  

“It should signal the beginning of the end of coal mining in Sydney’s precious drinking water catchment but the threat remains. 

“That’s why the NSW Government should legislate a ban on mining in all drinking water catchments in NSW to ensure coal mines can never again threaten the security of our drinking water supplies. 

“Coal mining drains billions of litres of water out of the metropolitan catchment every year, enough to supply thousands of homes in Sydney and the Illawarra. 

“Such waste is inexcusable at a time when coal mining is also worsening heatwaves and bushfires though climate change. To have approved this mine expansion would have been a grave mistake. 

“Unfortunately, this is not the only threat from coal mining to important water resources and habitat, including the Angus Place expansion near Lithgow and plans to tunnel uner Woronora Reservoir.” 

Mr Gambian said the decision reflected poorly on the NSW Planning Department, which had recommended the expansion be approved despite serious risks to water, rare swamplands and Aboriginal heritage. 

“The Planning Department has time and again put the interests of coal companies ahead of local communities and the environment,” he said.  

“There should be a review of the department’s processes to determine how it could have so enthusiastically endorsed this proposal, which was clearly not in the public interest.” 

 

 


Appointment of Chris Bowen to the shadow climate and energy portfolio

Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said: “We welcome the appointment of Chris Bowen to lead federal Labor’s climate and energy portfolio.

“Mr Bowen’s formidable intellect and political skills make him well suited for one of the most challenging policy areas in modern Australian politics.

“Mr Bowen’s deep understanding of the economic consequences of a failure to act on climate change, as well as his deep care for communities and the environment, will help him drive the climate debate and offer up meaningful alternatives to the Morrison government’s hopeless program.

“We also acknowledge and thank Mark Butler for his hard work in the portfolio over many years.

“We look forward to working with Mr Bowen and continuing our strong relationship with Terri Butler in the environment and water portfolios.”

 

Media contact: James Tremain | 0419 272 254


EPA must invite public submissions on Vales Point pollution standards

The Nature Conservation Council has asked the Environment Protection Authority to consult the public and health professionals before deciding whether to grant Vales Point power station a further five-year exemption from nitrogen oxide pollution limits in the NSW Clean Air Regulation. 

“We have written to the EPA recommending that it reject the application and to let health professionals and the people who live in the shadow of the Vales Point smoke stacks to be heard,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“The extremely high level of nitrogen dioxide pollution coming out of Vales Point power station is a serious public health issue.

“It is only right that the communities bearing the brunt of the health effects of this facility be given a chance to have a say about how it is regulated. 

“NO2 pollution from coal power stations causes asthma in 650 children on the Central Coast. [1] 

“These children would not have asthma if power stations in NSW, including Vales Point, met emissions standards that apply in other countries.

“Delta Electricity, which owns Vales Point, is massively profitable and could easily afford to install pollution controls that would significantly address the problem.

“Delta is a cabal of capitalists with one objective — to run their coal-fired power station with minimum pollution controls for as long as possible to maximise their profits, regardless of the human health and the environmental impacts.

“The EPA should be standing up for the people, not allowing big polluters harm the health of children on the Central Coast."    

Delta Electricity applied for the exemption from NO2 emissions standards in December. The EPA has 60 days to make its decision (February 21), or 90 days if it gives the public and health professionals a say (March 23).

References 

[1] Ewald, B, (January 2021), Power station NO2 emissions and paediatric asthma in Central Coast, Hunter Valley and Sydney Local Government Areas

 

MEDIA CONTACT: James Tremain | 0419 272 254


Coal power should not be above the law on clean air

Vales Point power station, one of the state’s biggest polluters, must not be granted another five-year exemption from the Clean Air Regulation, according to the Nature Conservation Council.

“Vales Point is a massively polluting business that makes mega profits for its billionaire owner because the NSW Government and the EPA keeps letting it off the hook,” Nature Conservation Council Acting CEO Jacqui Mumford said.

“This power station is not only fueling climate change, it is harming the health of hundreds of kids on the Central Coast. 

“Vales Point emits nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution at twice the rate of other coal power stations because it hasn’t invested in even the most basic equipment that can reduce this pollution.

“The free ride has to end.”

The owner of Vales Point,  Delta Electricity, applied to the EPA for another five year exemption from the state’s clean air laws on December 23. The EPA is now considering the application.

Vales Point’s current Environmental Protection Licence allows up to 1500 milligrams of nitrogen dioxide to be emitted per cubic metre of exhaust, while under the NSW Clean Air Regulation, polluting facilities of the same age must emit around half as much pollution, at 800 milligrams per cubic metre. [1]

Nitrogen dioxide from coal power stations causes respiratory diseases and is responsible for hundreds of kids in the local area developing asthma.

“Coal power stations should not be above the law when it comes to polluting our air,” Ms Mumford said. 

“It’s time Vales and all power stations in NSW stopped poisoning the air we breathe and protected the health of people who live around Lake Macquarie and the Central Coast.

“For 10 years, the Vales Point coal power station has been exempted from the Clean Air Regulation. Enough is enough. We call on the EPA to reject this latest application.

“Installing low-NOx burners would halve the nitrogen dioxide pollution that the plant releases into the community, at a cost which is just a fraction of its annual profit.

“The EPA has not yet committed to holding public consultations on this application, so if locals want to see cleaner air in their community, we encourage them to get in touch with the EPA to ask them to reject  this application.”

BACKGROUND 

  • The Federal Government has earmarked a $8.7 million subsidy for repairs to Vales Point power station, which is owned by coal baron Trevor St Baker. 
  • The power station is expected to close by 2029, but its owner has stated that it would run the plant as long as possible. ASIC filings show that last year the power station made a before tax profit of $141 million. [2]
  • An engineering report commissioned by the power station found that fitting low-NOx burners to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions would cost about $33 million. [3]
  • Mr St Baker has a record of gaining from government decisions. He bought Vales Point power station from the NSW Government for $1 million in 2015 and made $113 million in profit on the deal in 2017-18. [4]  
  • Mr St Baker is a regular political donor, and former National Party candidate. 

REFERENCES

[1] Schedule 3, p83, Protection of the Environment (Clean Air) Regulation 2002

[2]  Vales Point power station’s billionaire beggars receive $62 million dividend,  1-12-20, NCC Media release

[3] Jacobs report, GIPA EPA431, table ES-2, page 10

 [4] The man who bought Vales Point power station from the NSW Government for a song has new plans for the site, 23-1-19, Newcastle Herald