17 April 2023
Ted O’Brien: So firstly, I’m delighted to be here in Kurri Kurri, a very proud, very proud town with a wonderful history. We are on the eve of the closure of the Liddell power station. It is the start of a turbulent era for Australia’s energy system, because we will have 80% of baseload power out of the grid by 2035. Without any replacement. The Federal Labor Government has botched the Kurri Kurri gas plant. It should be online this year to ensure the grid is stable. It will not be online. I’m calling on the Labor government to show its plan for a transition. If we have so much baseload power coming out of the system. We need to have a replacement there in time, but we have radio silence from the Albanese government. It doesn’t have a plan. It’s never had a plan. The only idea from the Albanese government has been for the Kurri Kurri gas plant to be 30% green hydrogen from day one. It’s never been costed. It’s unachievable. It needs to drop that plan and come up with a plan to manage the transition. Otherwise the lights will go out.
Interviewer: And I guess with Liddell closing that 13% of New South Wales. You know, energy or electricity. What’s the big question when when that does stop?
Ted O’Brien: Well, the big question is how do you replace so much baseload power coming into the system, you’ve got up to 13% that’s going to be leaving through Liddell. And then Eraring will be another probably 20 25%. On top of that. This is a massive change for New South Wales. It’s going to be a massive change and challenge for the Hunter. But the federal government has no answers. It has no plans. How can we replace that? Well, when the when AGL first came out and said they are going to be closing Liddell. But then the coalition government negotiated an extension of Liddell and invested in the Kurri Kurri gas plant. That was our plan. Since then, though, we’ve had an election. Labor is now in. It had no negotiations of extending the life of Liddell and then it botched the Kurri Kurri gas plant which leaves us in the predicament we are today. We have to remember … we have to remember that the closure of Liddell is only the start. We’re going to have 20 gigawatts coming out of the grid by 2035. So Liddell’s closure is only the start of what will be the most turbulent period in Australia’s energy system. And this government has no plan to manage that. None whatsoever.
Interviewer: And that they have doubled the amount of approvals they’re doing for green energy projects. Is that enough, or what more can they do?
Ted O’Brien: We need action. We need construction. We need things on the ground otherwise the lights go out. That’s the problem. You know, the Labor government will talk talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. But zero delivery. If they were dead set serious they would not have botched the Kurri Kurri gas plant they should be coming out today and confirming that they will not be seeking a 30% introduction of green hydrogen from day one in this plant. That’s what they should be doing. They should come out and reveal a plan. You cannot say to the people of the Hunter, the people of New South Wales that we’re going to allow the premature closure of a whole bunch of coal fired power stations, but we don’t have a plan for how it’s going to be replaced. You know, they do a lot of talking but very little delivery and this is the problem. It’s the Australian people who are paying high prices. It’s the Australian people who have to put up with brownouts and blackouts. The Australian people are the ones who are promised by the Albanese government, a $275 reduction, household power bills – not happening – not being delivered. This is the problem. Big promises zero delivery and it’s the Australian people who pay.
Interviewer: And if they were to scrap the 30% green hydrogen plan what what would be in place instead?
Ted O’Brien: Well immediately they need to get going with the original plan. There should be a gas peaker. So, you know, everybody wants to see a cleaner future. The coalition too. We invested enormous amounts of money into renewables. But you have to do this in a sensible way. You have to strike the right balance. And this Labor government has no sense of balance. We do need gas in the system. We need gas to firm up renewables. Without gas the lights will go out prices will be higher. But this government is trying to kill off gas. I mean, the reason that they decided to change the plan to the Kurri Kurri gas plant is because of the hatred of gas. They took gas out of the capacity mechanism. They took gas projects out of the budget. They introduced price caps on gas in December. They’re looking at mandatory code for gas. This is the problem. They have such an ideological problem with gas. They’ve lost all sight of any pragmatism and Australians pay the price.
Interviewer: And they say there will be enough supply to not have blackouts in the months ahead. But are you concerned that we will run out of electricity?
Ted O’Brien: Look, I stand with a lot of people in industry and analysts who are saying we still have a problem. The best hope is that winter isn’t too cold. And the next summer isn’t too hot. That’s what it’s come down to. We are hoping that the weather gods are put to us. I mean, seriously, this is Australia we’re talking about we should not be hoping that we might just have enough energy. We are blessed with an abundant amount of resources in this country. This government is sending us down the wrong path of decarbonization. The coalition believes in a cleaner environment. In fact, we drove enormous amount of success in that regard, but you have to strike the right balance. You can’t put reliability at risk. That’s what this government is doing. And it’s Australians who will pay the price. It’s the people of the hunter who will pay the price.
Interviewer: I just want to check as well on snowy Hydros website this morning, it said the project will be operating by the end of 2023. But have you heard otherwise?
Ted O’Brien: Look, the original plan was that we would have this plant, the gas plant up and running in time to make sure that the risk from Liddell’s closure would be covered off. What we’ve heard since is that they will not meet their original timeline. It’s only going to be postponed as for the end date. Well, let’s wait to see what they can deliver. But the real problem started when the new government insisted on changing the plan and making it blended with hydrogen. Indeed the CEO was sacked. We believe because he was advising the Minister correctly. That …well… you can’t just pull that off. I mean, here we have a Minister that has not done a fully costed project for this. They haven’t done the economic modeling. It’s unachievable, it hasn’t been costed, and they ploughed ahead. And that’s why we’re seeing a postponement, and that’s why we’re going to see unreliability in the grid.