Canberra Report - Hunter Powering Ahead - Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Canberra Report - Hunter Powering Ahead - Wednesday, 5 May 2021 Main Image

By Joel Fitzgibbon

05 May 2021

It’s official, both the major political parties in Canberra will offer more childcare support at the next election.  This is great news.


I’ll leave it to readers to compare the two promised packages. Whatever your conclusion, it is well known that rising childcare costs are leaving parents to conclude it is not worth going back to work. That’s a shame, particularly given, more often than not, it is women who are forced to stay at home. 


Every job in our economy is an important one and our jobs market needs people as much as people need job opportunities.  A childcare system which leads people to conclude they are better off staying at home is one which adversely affects our economy.




AGL’s Bayswater Power Station upgrade is now a reality and its good news for our region.  The upgrade itself is creating plenty of economic activity and will allow AGL to produce more electricity with less fuel and lower carbon emissions.  It should also extend the life of the generator units.


The upgrade will also help to fill the baseload power gap that will be created by the closure of the 50-year-old Liddell Power Station.  Filling this gap with synchronous energy will be critical to the proper functioning of the grid.  It cannot run on variable renewable energy alone. 




I welcome the Energy Security Board’s recommendation that our coal-fired generators be rewarded for their ability to deliver energy 24/7 and, therefore, their capacity to keep the grip stable and guarantee energy reliability.


Under current arrangements renewable technologies with zero fuel costs are driving wholesale prices so low when weather conditions are ideal. Those prices are undermining the profitability of our big generators. That sounds OK at first blush, but we can’t operate a reliable system without generators capable of producing the firming power we need to deliver affordable and reliable energy.


So, the Energy Security Board has suggested that the big generators be paid a premium for the reliability they bring to the grid.  How that is paid remains to be determined but in a competitive retail market, it can be done without adversely impacting on prices.  In any case, the early departure of coal-fired generators would certainly have an adverse price impact.




By the time this column is published, the Prime Minister may have announced Snowy Hydro will build a gas-fired peaking power station in Kurri Kurri.  If so, that will be great news.  The new gas station will further fill the gap left by Liddell and bring jobs to our region.


I’ve heard it said Government should not be building generators. That is just plain silly. While it is true Snowy Hydro is owned by the Federal Government, it is a Government Business Enterprise which will borrow money to build the gas-peaker, make money, and return a dividend to the Government.  What’s wrong with that I ask?


None of the above will be enough alone to fill the Liddell gap.  Another opportunity in our own backyard is the re-opening of Redbank Power Station.  Originally built to run of coal tailings, it is now thought it could operate on sawmill wood waste.  That would be a great outcome.