Committee dismisses calls to use climate funds for coal plant upgrades

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An independent review into the Federal Government’s Climate Solutions Fund has dismissed calls by lobbyists to access dedicated climate funding for upgrades to coal-fired power plants. In its decision, the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee (ERAC) said that it would be difficult to estimate the impact of upgrading a generator on the overall emissions, particularly when the upgrade could potentially extend the generator’s operating life and lead to an overall increase Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The ERAC conducted the review on the Morrison government’s request made last year following a push by the coal lobby to excess the $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund. The owner of the Vales Point power station, Trevor St Baker, was particularly persistent in his calls for funds to be directed to the 42-year-old Vales Point power station in New South Wales, which has already been shortlisted for taxpayer funds under the Morrison government’s Underwriting New Generation Investments (UNGI) program.

The plant’s owners, Delta Electricity, wanted to bid for taxpayers’ support to help pay for a replacement of turbines at the ageing coal generator, arguing that this would reduce the overall emissions of the facility. After the company’s push was stalled by the Clean Energy Regulator, former federal environment minister Melissa Price requested a review of how the fund could be used.