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Coal power stations needed ‘back online’: Minister

How to save energy, as prices surge

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Coal-fired power stations need to come back online to help ease the nation’s energy crisis, Resources Minister Madeleine King says.

Amid soaring gas prices due to supply issues, Ms King said an immediate step would be for power station operators “to get moving on fixing their plants right now”.

“In the very short term, what we really need to do is to have the coal power stations come back online because that is the missing piece of the puzzle right now,” she told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“There’s been unplanned outages for many reasons, many beyond the control of those operators and I do accept that, but I hope they’re doing their best to make sure this power source comes online as well.”

Energy Minister Chris Bowen will meet state and territory counterparts on Wednesday to discuss solutions as the Albanese government considers short- and longer-term solutions to take pressure off prices.

Ms King skirted around the issue of the government providing assistance to coal-fired power stations, saying it had a clean energy policy.

“It wouldn’t matter how much money anyone put in right now, we just need the operators to get moving on fixing their plants,” she said.

“It is the coal companies themselves, and the operators of the power stations, that need to get these power stations back online.

“It’s 30 per cent of the energy capacity taken out of the mix because of unforeseen circumstances in many respects.”

Asked if the government would consider a nationwide policy forcing producers to reserve 15 per cent of their gas – as they do in Western Australia – Ms King said “nothing is off the table”.

She did not commit to the policy, saying it was a “great political struggle” for the Labor government to introduce it, with many people losing “a lot of political skin in that fight”.

Opposition climate change spokesman Ted O’Brien said the Albanese government needed to pull the “gas trigger” that allows exports to be diverted to domestic supply.

But Mr Bowen has argued it was a complex process, and action taken now would have no effect until January.

“It reflects a lack of commercial experience on the part of Chris Bowen, who’s been speaking disparagingly about it, because the value of the lever is not just in its practical use but in the threat of its use, the threat of intervention,” Mr O’Brien told ABC radio.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said cost of living relief would feature in the October budget, but extending the fuel excise cut would be difficult because of the costs involved.

“We’ve got a plan to get those power bills down over time because the absence of an energy policy for the best part of a decade is a key reason why inflation is going through the roof,” he told Sky News.

Opposition treasury spokesman Angus Taylor, the former energy minister, rejected accusations he had failed to invest in renewables.

“We’re committed to some important transmission projects … but we don’t need excessive investment because that puts upward pressure on prices,” he told ABC News.

-AAP