Market News

 August 21, 2009
Queensland to clean up coal-fired power

 Queensland will ban new coal-fired power stations except for those that can be fitted with clean coal technology.

The move institutionalises the technology in the nation's major coal-producing state.

There are four new coal-fired power stations planned for the eastern seaboard -- one each in Queensland and Victoria, and two in NSW -- and all have provision for clean coal technology.

The Queensland ban is the centrepiece of the state government's updated climate change strategy, announced yesterday, which allocates $87 million to new initiatives.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said she anticipated clean coal technology could be ready for widespread commercial use within five to 10 years, but acknowledged there was some way to go.

The one new coal-fired power station being planned for Queensland is at Wandoan on the Darling Downs, and it is already part of a carbon capture and storage scheme.

Ms Bligh said the private sector had acknowledged that a carbon trading scheme would mean the end of traditional coal-fired power stations, and the new rules would make Queensland's position "absolutely clear".

The biggest loser in Queensland from an emissions trading scheme may be the state government, as it owns every coal-fired power station in the state.

Some are old, such as the Swanbank plant near Brisbane, which was built in 1972 and may have to be replaced if a strict emissions regime is introduced.

"Unfortunately there are a number of power stations already existing in Queensland, including some owned by the government, which were built many years ago before our understanding of what CO2 emissions were doing to the climate, which will be very difficult, in some cases to the point of impossibility, to retrofit," Ms Bligh said.

State miners welcomed the move, with Queensland Resources Council chief Michael Roche saying the main challenge facing the industry was to implement clean coal technology.

But environmental groups were disappointed, saying the move would institutionalise coal as a major fuel source and prevent meaningful exploration of new technologies.

But the government allocated $87m for other initiatives to tackle climate change, largely in transport, such as allowing motorists to pay to offset their carbon emissions, with the money being used to buy areas of environmentally valuable land around the state.