Origin Energy’s decision to bring forward the closure of its Eraring coal-fired power station – NSW’s largest – reflects the reality of a 21st-century power grid, and 21st-century economics.
Coal is king no longer. Unable to compete on cost with renewable energy, it is also inflexible, ageing, inefficient and polluting.
In Australia, and globally, renewables backed by storage deliver the cheapest power, and do so without the greenhouse emissions coal and gas produce, which is critical if we are to avoid the worsening impacts of climate change.
As a senior executive for over 10 years at Origin, I was responsible for the development of its power generation fleet, gas, wind and solar. In the early 2000s, before global emissions ballooned on the back of coal and gas expansions, gas power was seen as a transition pathway to renewables. Even then, though, I thought Origin’s foray into coal power was a step too far in the face of climate change science, and stayed well clear of it.
After a decade of coal ownership, it looks like the current board and CEO have finally seen the light.