The environmental assessment reports for the two power stations say ”clean coal” technology will not be available to them in the medium term, although they expect that the technology will eventually emerge and the stations are fitted out for future carbon capture and storage.
Building coal-fired power plants, which would lock in high-emissions infrastructure for decades, is a touchstone issue for environment groups, which argue future energy needs can mainly be met with better energy efficiency, wind turbines and solar stations in the outback.
A decision by the Planning Minister, Tony Kelly, on the future of the plants, deemed ”critical infrastructure” under state planning laws, is expected this week.
The key decision facing the utilities is whether to run the two, 1000-megawatt plants on coal or gas. Burning gas generates slightly less than half the emissions of coal, but is likely to be more expensive and would require the construction of a pipeline to Mount Piper.
The government is unlikely to express a preference for either gas or coal in its assessment.
The NSW Greens believe the need for new sources of baseload power have been overestimated.
“The NSW government has written off the state’s renewable energy future, preferring instead to rely on outdated and inaccurate predications of a shortage of baseload power to justify their expansion plans,” the Greens MP John Kaye said.
“Massive wind development in the state’s west and possibilities for solar thermal generation in the central west put paid to the Keneally government’s myths that NSW lacks renewable resources.”