Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday vowed to eliminate future crippling power shortages despite a warning from the AEMO that the country faces a shortfall in energy in the next five years.
Addressing all concerns, Turnbull hinted at extending the life of the Liddell coal-fired power plant for up to an additional five years.
The Prime Minister said the government would do everything it could to keep the lights on and keep prices lower for Australians.
“There are short-term problems which AEMO is addressing, but in particular after 2022, which is when Liddell power plant closes, AEMO expects a 1,000-megawatt gap,” Xinhua quoted Turnbull as saying at a press conference here.
“The year 2022 is a critical date, as it’s also a year or two prior to Snowy Hydro 2.0 coming online. We now need to put in place all the options to ensure we find that 1,000-megawatt gap in dispatchable energy,” he added.
The Prime Minister said that he would discuss with energy company AGL — which owns Liddell — the prospect of either keeping the power station online for longer or facilitating the sale of the station to another operator in order to keep supply up and running.
“We have had several discussions with AGL and its CEO Andy Vesey about the Liddell power station continuing for a longer period — up to an additional five years,” Turnbull said.
“AGL has said they want to close it by 2022, but that they’re prepared to discuss the sale to a responsible party.”
Turnbull said the generators and companies obviously prefer prices to be high, but the “government’s responsibility is to the Australian people and that energy is affordable”.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, who was also present at the press conference, said AGL had in the past said that it would “consider” the sale of the asset despite the scheduled closure in 2022.
“Both the PM and I have spoken to Andy Vesey and we will be meeting with him again on Monday to discuss our options,” Frydenberg said.
“What we’ve heard from the AEMO is that there is a concern — with Liddell scheduled to close in 2022 — that there will be insufficient supply in the market.”
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in a report said that unless current coal-fired power stations had their lives extended, Australia faces a shortfall of more than 1,000 megawatts until the government’s Snowy Hydro 2.0 pumped hydro power station is built later next decade.
Snowy Hydro 2.0 is a pumped hydroelectric dam project which was announced by the Turnbull government earlier in the year, the report said.
The project, expected to cost upwards of 2 billion Australian dollars ($1.6 billion) and take up to six years to complete, is expected to provide an additional 2,000 megawatts of power to the grid once completed.
“We face an increasing and unacceptable risk that there will be insufficient capability in the system,” the report said.
“In turn, this exposes consumers to a heightened risk of involuntary and unacceptable load shedding (blackouts).”
Meanwhile, AGL in a statement said it had “committed to the closure of the Liddell Power Station in 2022, which is the end of its operating life”.
The government will now have to convince Vesey and AGL to reconsider their options in order to keep the lights on for millions of Australians.