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Australia Supports Hi-Tech Coal Plants

AUSTRALIANS have thrown their support behind hi-tech, coal-fired power stations as a leading analyst warned it could be decades before batteries to store renewable power were widespread.

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) survey of 1300 people showed 68 per cent of Australians supported new-generation coal power through high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) coal-fired generation.

MCA executive director of coal, Greg Evans, said the goal of Australia’s energy and climate policy framework should be to deliver reliable energy at the least-possible cost, while meeting emissions-reduction objectives.

“Achieving this goal means applying a technology-neutral approach to all energy sources while avoiding … non-market-oriented interventions,” he said.

Mr Evans said a study showed HELE black coal was the lowest-cost generation option at $40-$78 a megawatt hour, compared to gas-powered electricity at $69-$115 a MWh. HELE coal-fired generators emit 20-25 per cent less CO2 than the average of existing power stations.

Global resources analyst Wood Mackenzie said Asia would invest $US250 billion ($A320 billion) in coal power over the next decade.

“Although coal-fired power is facing strong headwinds globally, it will still dominate emerging markets in Asia in the next two decades as power demand in South-East Asia is expected to grow at about 4.6 per cent a year,’’ Wood Mackenzie’s Shirley Zhang said.

“A more imminent risk is perhaps the way a power system will be operated and maintained when renewables’ share grows in the future.

“Coal power could be reduced to a marginal fuel when commercial energy storage takes over its role as a more economic peak-shaving service provider. But this could take decades.’’

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