(Bloomberg) — The Australian government will give financial backing to a study into a new coal-fired power plant in Queensland that it said would lower power prices and improve grid reliability, drawing criticism from environmentalists who say it’s not doing enough to tackle climate change.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has been a staunch supporter of the coal industry in the face of a growing backlash against the heavy polluting fuel. Criticism over the lack of a coherent climate policy has intensified following the devastating bushfires that swept across the country this summer.
The government will provide A$4 million ($2.7 million) to support the study into a proposed high efficiency, lower emissions plant at Collinsville. If it goes ahead, it would be the first coal power station commissioned in the country in over a decade.
“Our plan to unlock investment in new, reliable generation capacity will increase competition, keep the lights on, and lower prices to better support our commercial and industrial sector so they can employ more Australians and remain internationally competitive,” Energy Minister Angus Taylor said in a statement. An independent study had identified a need to bolster the reliability of the network grid in the region where the plant would be located, Taylor added.
Clean energy specialist Simon Holmes a Court said the plan isn’t realistic and the government was wasting public money “on an ideological crusade.”
Coal still accounts for over 60% of Australia’s power generation mix, but several aging plants are scheduled to retire over the next decade. Industry experts see wind and solar filling the gap, backed by hydro and battery storage, as the cost of renewable generation continues to fall.