“Old Australian coal-fired power plants will continue to close,” Bowen said. “We need to make sure that shutdowns are managed properly and that we are investing in distributed, fixed renewable energy, along with storage and transportation, to make up for lost power generation.”
The national energy market relies on private investment to generate new electricity generation, and the market operator identifies new opportunities for investors based on expectations.
In the past two years, state and federal governments have identified strategies to encourage new renewable energy into the market by financing new transmission lines to connect new wind and solar farms to the grid, and unlocking funds to stimulate investment.
There is no guarantee that the new infrastructure will be delivered, said Ted O’Brien, a spokesman for the opposition on climate change and energy.
“Workers are betting on early shutdown of power plants to drive uptake of renewables without any guarantees of generation replacement,” O’Brien said.
AGL’s interim CEO, Damien Nix, said the company aims to provide 12 gigawatts of renewable generation by 2036, such as wind and solar farms, and fixed capacity such as batteries and pumped hydropower. The AGL has set an interim target of 5 gigawatts by 2030.
The $20 billion strategy will be funded by a combination of assets on AGL’s balance sheet, sales agreements and partnerships.
AGL has been under shareholder pressure to close coal-fired power plants in 2030 ever since Campaign by billionaire businessman Mike Cannon-Brooksa major shareholder, was forced to back off plans to separate coal-fired power plants from retail and renewable energy assets via a controversial separation process.
Canon Brooks has outlined a vision for AGL to become a clean energy powerhouse and is supporting four new board members for election – former Commonwealth Energy Security Council Chairman Kerry Schotte, CSL Board Member Kristin Holman, Professor John Bollers, and former Tesla Director Mark Tudel.
When asked if AGL’s plans were based on Cannon-Brookes’ plans, McKenzie said, “It’s very clear that the board and management team are very much in control.”
A Grok Ventures spokesperson in Cannon-Brookes welcomed the AGL announcement, and once again said AGL needed “extra skills” around its board table to help its transition.
“While this is a positive step in the right direction, as the largest emitter, and the leading energy company in Australia, AGL needs to take a leadership position to achieve the Paris target of less than 1.5 degrees,” they said.
Steve Dodd, secretary of the Gippsland Board of Trade and Labor, said his organization had not been consulted, although it was aware that the company was conducting an asset review that would expire at the end of September.
“We are disappointed that AGL did not see an occasion to consult with those most affected,” said Mr. Dodd. “But it gives us some time to plan and interact with the workers about where they are going next.”
Environmental groups widely welcomed the accelerated shutdown, but questioned the company’s claim that it would bring its emissions in line with Paris’s climate goals, which aim to keep the world below 1.5 degrees of global warming.
“This schedule does not meet the expectations of AGL shareholders who voted last year to ask the company to adopt Paris-compatible climate targets,” said Environment spokeswoman Victoria Bronya Lipski.
Green Group also said it expects the closing date to be brought forward further, prolonging the uncertainty for coal workers and the Latrobe Valley community.
David Ritter, president of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said the coming months represent a test of AGL’s new leadership. “This is a change that will make a real difference to the climate…committing to shutting it down by 2035 has a real and tangible benefit to Australia and the world,” he said.
Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio told a news conference Thursday morning that the government was not aware of the announcement until Wednesday evening. She said the AGL news will be tough for those who have supported Victoria through Loy Yang A for decades.
The early closure raises questions about the rehabilitation of the vast Lui Yang mine pit, which is used by the Lui Yang-er and Lui Yang Pei power plants, which are owned by Alenta. Loy Yang B, which is owned by Alinta, is scheduled to officially close in 2047.
“Power plants and coal mines leave behind toxic waste. Operators must rehabilitate the sites safely or risk leaving our community with catastrophic consequences,” said Tracy Anton, a spokesperson for Friends of Latrobe Water.
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