Residents of Dalton and Gunning were horrified to learn recently of AGL’s proposal to construct a 1,000 MW gas-fired power station just 4km from Dalton. The NSW government had waived an approval for the project back in 2012, but AGL publicly shelved it the same year and stopped communicating with residents.
In the intervening years, life went back to normal. New houses and businesses appeared in the village, the tourism industry took off, and lifestyle farmers bought up smaller blocks. It’s a familiar story for our region. So imagine the locals’ shock when out of the blue AGL applied to resurrect its building approval for another two years, and erect a dirty, noisy, industrial development in the heart of their idyllic countryside.
Among the many distasteful aspects of AGL’s application for an extension of time is that the original conditional approval took advantage of the notorious “Part 3A” section of NSW Planning law. This infamous section was so obviously open to corruption that it has since been repealed. AGL is hoping to hang onto the coat-tails of this now-repealed legislation, in order to once again avoid proper scrutiny.
In addition, AGL wants to ‘game’ Australia’s National Energy Market (NEM), which can be manipulated to keep prices high for the consumer and muscle out renewable storage by building so-called ‘peaking’ power stations. AGL would take advantage of the thousand-fold spikes in electricity prices that can occur when large generators withhold supply. Sadly, reform of the NEM to clamp down on this behaviour has yet to be enacted.
Some form of dispatchable power (power that can be delivered on demand at any time) will always be required to complement the variable output that renewable energy sources such as wind and solar deliver. Large gas peaking plants, which produce 80 percent of the CO2 emissions of coal, are the wrong way to go. As has been seen in both SA and NSW recently, the failure of gas plants to start when needed (due to faulty equipment or lack of profitability) can create massive power shortages.
A truly secure electricity supply can only be provided by demand management and a large number of medium-scale, renewable storage facilities (batteries, solar thermal, pumped hydro) distributed throughout the eastern states.
We congratulate the people of Dalton, Gunning and surrounding areas on their magnificent campaign to protect their peaceful rural environment from AGL, Australia’s biggest polluter.