HRL 'clean coal' power station funding pulled

Federal funding for a controversial demonstration power plant in Victoria featuring brown coal integrated drying and gasification combined cycle technology has been withdrawn.

Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson said on Friday that the grant, which was to be issued under the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund (LETDF), was subject to a funding agreement requiring a number of conditions.

“The Government made it clear in February this year that it would grant one final extension until 30 June 2012 for HRL to meet the conditions. It has not done so and, accordingly, the funding agreement between HRL and the Australian Government will be terminated,” Minister Ferguson said.

In 2007, the former Howard Government announced a $100 million grant to support the construction of the 400 MW Dual Gas Project plant. A funding agreement was signed between the Commonwealth and HRL in 2008. Four extensions were subsequently granted to HRL.

Environment Victoria campaign director Mark Wakeham says the HRL project would have used highly polluting and out-of-date technology.

“Environment Victoria challenged the EPA’s approval of the project in VCAT last year, so we’re extremely pleased with the outcome and we think there’s potential for much cleaner power stations to replace our most polluting stations,” he said.

Mr Wakeham has also called on the Victorian government to withdraw its $50 million grant for the project.

Last year, Environment Victoria’s CEO said the community had registered over 4000 objections to the EPA in regard to the power station, whereas submissions supporting the project were fewer than a dozen.

Even low emissions coal technology comes at a huge environmental cost. Anywhere between to 20 per cent - 40 per cent more coal is reportedly needed to supply the energy required for the technologies to work; meaning more coal needs to be mined - which is a carbon intensive operation in itself.

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