Labor to target new coal stations

A RE-ELECTED Labor government will target “dirty” coal-fired power stations as its first move towards a new climate change policy, according to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, with new coal-fired stations to be subject to strict new emissions standards.
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Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Nick Evans

In a speech at the University of the Queensland on Friday morning Gillard said her government would also require that any power station built in the future was “carbon capture ready” and could be retro-fitted with developing clean coal technology.

Tougher emissions standards will also be implemented, with guidelines to be developed by the government in consultation with stakeholders “including state and territory governments, energy market institutions, industry and environmental groups”

"This means that we would never allow a highly inefficient and dirty power station to be built again in Australia," Gillard said.

But, these new standards will not apply to existing projects, or to projects that have been committed to when the standards come into effect, according to Gillard.

The starting point for those guidelines will be below the level at which assistance was proposed by the government under its previous Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) – generators that are producing above 0.86 tons of carbon per megawatt hour of electricity produced.

A re-elected Labor government, which has promised to revisit the CPRS in 2012, would also “lock in” the emission baselines for industry assistance at the levels outlined under the CPRS, a move Gillard said was designed to ensure companies taking early action on climate change were not disadvantaged for doing so.

“Retaining these baselines will ensure any efforts undertaken by a business now to cut pollution will be rewarded, because it will mean they will be required to purchase fewer permits in a future market to limit pollution,” she said.

It will encourage companies to take action to reduce their emissions early, rather than delaying a decision until a market mechanism is introduced.

“It will make businesses think twice before adding to their pollution levels ahead of a future market – because if they pollute more, they may have to make even greater emissions reductions down the track,” Gillard said.

The PM also backed the government’s plans for a renewable energy target of 20% of power generated by 2020, putting another $1 billion on the table over 10 years on infrastructure to connect renewable energy projects to state grids.

She said the initiative would support major new infrastructure investments that would not otherwise proceed without government help, including connecting renewable generation projects to the national network, significant network upgrades and extensions, and the upgrading of regional interconnectors or new interconnectors.

The government, if re-elected, will also establish a $100 million renewable energy venture capital fund to back the commercialisation of renewable energy projects.

But other major policy decisions will be delayed, in favour of more “consensus building” in the broader community, according to Gillard.

The government will establish a “citizen’s assembly” over the next 12 months to examine “the evidence on climate change, the case for action and the possible consequences of introducing a market-based approach to limiting and reducing carbon emissions”

The hand-picked group will also use the CPRS scheme as the starting point for its considerations.

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