Lack of government leadership is the biggest issue as the region transitions away from coal

Energy Minister Angus Taylor's Liddell taskforce told Singleton 'comfortable' with Liddell closure plans.

LACK of government leadership is the biggest issue facing the Hunter in the lead-up to the closure of Liddell power station and as the region transitions away from coal, Hunter councils have told a federal/state Liddell taskforce.

Future: AGL's Liddell coal-fired power station near Muswellbrook which is expected to close by April, 2023. Picture: Janie Barrett.

Future: AGL's Liddell coal-fired power station near Muswellbrook which is expected to close by April, 2023. Picture: Janie Barrett.
"There's a lot of groups in the region working on plans to transition from coal, but what's needed is government leadership. We'd like governments to pick up the leadership," said Singleton Mayor Sue Moore to the three-member taskforce on Friday as it meets stakeholders before reporting to Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor about the Liddell closure in early 2023.

Newcastle Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said she "absolutely agreed" with the need for governments to steer transition discussions.

Ms Moore told the taskforce her council and community were "largely comfortable" with the direction Liddell owner AGL was heading in its commitment to replace the power station's electricity generation with a mix of renewables, gas and storage.

"I know AGL's looking at opportunities to deliver outcomes as quickly as possible, they're looking after their workforce and transitioning away from what there is now to new forms of electricity generation," Ms Moore said.

In response to a question about how extending the life of the ageing Muswellbrook coal-fired power station past the already-extended deadline of early 2023 would impact the community, Ms Moore told the taskforce it would be a negative.

Questions: Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor expects a report from his Liddell taskforce by the end of the year. The taskforce is looking at the implications of the Liddell power station closure by April, 2023. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen.

 Questions: Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor expects a report from his Liddell taskforce by the end of the year. The taskforce is looking at the implications of the Liddell power station closure by April, 2023. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen.

"Our community was largely pleased to hear it was being shut down because of the air quality issues. Although there's a lot of focus on the coal mines when it comes to air quality because it is so visible, it's the emissions from power stations that are a real issue," Ms Moore told the taskforce.

Ms Moore, Singleton Council representatives and Upper Hunter Shire Council representatives including Mayor Wayne Bedggood met with the Liddell taskforce for the first time, and Muswellbrook Mayor Martin Rush and Muswellbrook Council representatives will meet the taskforce in October.

It was established by Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor in early August to consider the consequences of the Liddell closure, including the impact on the Hunter and jobs.

The joint federal-NSW taskforce will look at options for further extensions of Liddell, and Mr Taylor did not rule out using government funding to extend the life of the plant. AGL responded by saying such a plan would cost "a lot of money" and the proposal "does not stack up".

Mr Taylor said his focus was on a like-for-like replacement for Liddell's power output and a short and long-term solution for Liddell was "one of my top priorities".

Ms Moore said the taskforce was told the loss of jobs at Liddell would have a minimal impact on Singleton but was an issue for Muswellbrook Shire.

The taskforce is expected to report to the Federal and NSW governments by the end of this year.

Story by Joanne McCarthy and published in the Newcastle Herald, 29th September 2019