April 22, 2021
by Anne Miller
It’s no secret that Stanwell – and the State Government – are working towards the closure of Tarong and Tarong North power stations.
And when they close, Meandu coal mine will have no purpose and will likewise close.
The trend away from coal-fired power generation is happening across the world. It’s something South Burnett residents – and politicians – cannot simply wish away.
But some media reports today, selectively quoting Stanwell CEO Richard Van Breda at the Central Queensland Energy Futures Summit in Gladstone, paint a bleaker picture for Meandu mine than the reality.
The reports suggest Stanwell is “pulling the plug” on coal and would “soon” begin phasing out the Meandu coal mine.
The reports also suggested up to 1100 workers at Meandu – 700 direct employees and 400 indirect workers – would be offered other career options.
However, the reality is that Meandu Mine will not close while Tarong and Tarong North power stations remain operating.
Tarong Power Station has a technical lifespan until 2037, while the newer Tarong North power station could continue operating until 2042.
But they won’t. And Stanwell knows this. They will close much sooner.
My guess – and it’s only that – is probably five or six years.
The lifespan of the two power stations depends solely on the needs of the energy market.
That’s why Stanwell is preparing itself for a renewable energy future, and why the South Burnett Regional Council is also considering life after Tarong.
When Mr Van Breda spoke at Gladstone he was explaining Stanwell’s plans to shift towards renewable energy and storage over coming years.
“Australia is undergoing a major energy transition and it’s happening at a rapid pace,” Mr Van Breda said.
“Over the coming years, Stanwell will respond to the renewable energy needs of our large commercial and industrial customers through the introduction of new low or zero-emission generation technologies. We will also strive to play a central role in the emerging green hydrogen industry.
“We are taking early steps to bring our people, communities, unions and government together to put plans in place.
“These plans will help ensure that as we eventually retire our coal-fired assets from service, our people have choices in relation to retraining, redeployment and – where it is their preference – retirement.
“The plans our host communities develop in partnership with government, local councils, industry and advocacy groups will ensure the long-term economic resilience of their regions. While the communities themselves must own these plans, we will engage with them throughout the planning process, playing a supporting role and sharing our future plans.
“Our Tarong and Stanwell power stations will continue to play an important role as Stanwell’s portfolio transforms.
“We will operate our coal-fired power stations much more flexibly, in response to market requirements.
“This may include seasonal storage of our generating units, or placing units into standby mode so they can be quickly returned if the market needs them.”
So Meandu Mine will not close “soon”, although demand for its coal – and thus its workforce – could fluctuate in response to the number of units operating at Tarong.
Under National Electricity Rules, Stanwell is required to provide three years’ notice of any pending power station closure.
There’s no need to panic yet …