Eraring Power Station's energy storage battery

17th February 2021

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (19:41): A little over a month ago, Origin Energy announced plans to build an energy storage battery at Eraring Power Station in my electorate. This battery will be able to store 700 megawatts of power from any source and, most importantly, from any renewable source. The announcement came just eight weeks after this House backed the Government's Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill 2020, which the Minister for Energy and Environment described as a road map for private sector investment in the future of power generation in New South Wales. During that debate, we agreed on a commitment to include Lake Macquarie and the broader Hunter region in a list of recognised renewable energy zones, which aim to drive that private sector investment and deliver long-term reliability to the State's power supply. Origin Energy's 700-megawatt battery is an example of that investment and a reflection that the road map is already delivering good dividends.

As I have mentioned in the House a number of times, Eraring Power Station is the largest coal-fired power station in Australia—indeed, in the Southern Hemisphere—and provides about 25 per cent of the State's baseload electricity. It is due to close in 2032. It is therefore absolutely essential that something takes its place, so I am very pleased that Origin has moved in the direction it has. If it were built today, the Eraring battery would be the biggest of its type in Australia—although CEP.Energy has since announced plans to construct a 1,200-megawatt battery not far from my electorate at Kurri Kurri in the Cessnock electorate. In simple terms, Origin's battery will have the capacity to store 700 megawatts of power and send that power into the grid when needed. That energy could come from solar, wind or any other renewable source and be used when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.

More importantly, it will drive down the emissions we get from coal-fired power and put reliability and balance into our energy supply. These projects and others are a direct result of our decision to back the Government's energy road map for the coming decades as coal-generated power is phased out due to rapidly improving technology and market adoption of renewable energy. We know there are still some in the community who think the future remains coal and that the shift to renewable energy supplies is just part of the debate around climate change, but that is wrong. The market itself is shifting away from coal, overseas markets are shifting rapidly towards renewables and our coal-fired power stations are moving very quickly towards the end of their working lives.

I have spoken about this a number of times an I do not want to detail the issue again now, but it is important that we understand that this transition is happening now and we cannot be left behind. Coal will certainly be part of the mix for some time yet, but our coal companies and energy producers are themselves shifting towards renewables and we must be a part of that transition or be left—quite literally—in the dark. Miners who are in those jobs now are very likely however, other than for market forces, to see out their career in coal, if that is what they choose. I mentioned the CEP Energy project at Kurri Kurri earlier. It and Origin's battery project are just two of many which have been announced by private energy producers since the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill 2020 was passed here in November. Since that time, producers have announced battery and hydro plans that would expand storage by 2,400 megawatts. That is close to the equivalent of building a new Eraring power station.

We know that coal has massive impacts on our environment and that the shift away from it is happening whether we like it or not. I would go as far as to say that the likes of Eraring and coal-fired power have served this State very well for many decades, but I cannot say that without also saying that they will leave us with a number of legacy issues which we will be dealing with for many years to come. The most obvious of those is coal ash. We currently have about 200 million tonnes of coal ash stored in unlined ash dams throughout the State and the pile is growing by 3.8 million tonnes per year. I am pleased to say that better efforts are being made to recycle and reduce the amount of coal ash being stockpiled. In fact, that issue will be highlighted at a Coal Ash Forum being held in the Macquarie Room next month, coordinated by the Newcastle-based Hunter Community Environment Centre.

I have said much on this issue before and will continue to do so, but for now I highlight the positive steps that are being taken as we adjust to a new world of power generation. I certainly congratulate the Government and the Minister for Energy and Environment on these early results, and indeed Origin Energy for the important role it is playing. We have a long way to go, but I am sure we are on the right path with such policies from New South Wales and other States right around the country who are backing renewables.

Website: Read the Parliamentary Hansard here

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