O'Dowd doubles down on coal-fired power stance
WHILE the national conversation on energy policy is slowly shifting to focus on the transition to renewables, a group of Coalition MPs has other ideas.
Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd has confirmed he is part of the pro-coal Monash Forum, a group of government backbenchers pushing for the construction of a new coal-fired power station.
The existence of the roughly 20-member group - which is also understood to include Dawson MP George Christensen and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott - was revealed yesterday and is designed to test Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's commitment to the "technology-neutral" National Energy Guarantee policy.
Mr O'Dowd yesterday said the group had existed informally for "quite some time" and at its core was aimed at reducing power prices.
"All this talk's been going on (about reducing prices) but nothing is happening," he said.
"There's a lot of concerned politicians out there on the Coalition side. We've got to get (coal-fired power stations) on the agenda because it takes a while to plan them and then another while to build them."
Mr O'Dowd said much of the national conversation had shifted to shutting down coal power stations in favour of renewables and the Monash Forum would attempt to shift the conversation "the other way".
"We just think (renewables) won't be able to hold the price anywhere near what it is now and it will go one way - north."
When asked about the effect investing in coal-fired power would have on the changing climate, Mr O'Dowd pointed to the construction of coal-fired stations overseas and said power prices were his main concern.
He said new data from the National Pollutant Inventory showing high levels of particle emissions in Gladstone strengthened his case for a newer, HELE (high efficiency low emissions) power station to be built so that it could take over once Gladstone Power Station reached the end of its life.
That station should be built in Gladstone rather than elsewhere in Australia due to the natural advantages held by the city, according to Mr O'Dowd.
"We have a thriving aluminium industry so we are one of the biggest users of electricity," he said.
"We've got coal at our doorstep, we've got salt water to do the cooling - places like Tarong have to have water pumped - and we have the overhead network already in place," he said.
"And there's land available."
The Monash Forum's manifesto was obtained by News Corp yesterday evening.
It calls for the construction of a "Hazelwood 2.0" station in Victoria's Latrobe Valley.