An aerial image captured by a drone of Gladstone Power Station.
An aerial image captured by a drone of Gladstone Power Station. Aerial Media Gladstone

Power station denies report's claim it will close by 2029-30

THE operator of the 1680-megawatt Gladstone Power Station has thrown cold water on suggestions it will close in 11 years.

Operator NRG has dismissed claims from the Australian Energy Market Operator's 2018 Integrated System Plan, released last month, which said the power station was due to reach its end of life by 2029.

The report documented what the National Electricity Market would require within the next 20 years to continue to meet demand, including the need to find new sources of power as ageing coal-fired power stations come offline.

The AEMO listed Gladstone's as the third plant to retire before 2030, behind Liddell and Vales Point.

But incoming Gladstone Power Station general manager Chuck Mason said the company had no plans to close in 2029.

The power station, which employs 320 people, has undergone three major overhauls in the past 18 months worth $70million, with another planned for May 2019 as part of its ongoing asset management program.

"What separates GPS from other power stations is its fast-ramping capability and drought proofing, being sea-water cooled," Mr Mason said.

The Integrated System Plan said maintaining existing coal-fired power stations up to the end of their technical life was key to a low-cost approach.

It highlighted the benefits of replacing these power stations with renewable plants, including the falling cost of new renewables and availability of storage technologies.

"By the 2030s, as coal-fired generation retires, the cost of even a 1:1 installation of solar with storage backup for capacity firming is projected to be on par with, or lower than, currently projected costs for new entry coal, ignoring any new policy drivers to further limit emissions," it said.

The AEMO estimated it could cost between $8-27billion to replace retiring generation capacity to meet ongoing demand.

Mr Mason, who has been the general manager at the plant since late July, said they would continue to explore ways to combine the station's capabilities with solar and wind generation.

He said the Gladstone plant could underpin commercial arrangements for large-scale renewable projects as part of the transition to a lower emissions energy grid.

"People see this as a coal versus renewables argument - we see it as coal-fired generation and renewables working together," Mr Mason said.

The power station could not tell The Observer how long after 2029 it envisaged it could continue to operate.

But Mr Mason said, "with continued investment, GPS can continue to operate beyond 2029, as the market demands".