'Held hostage': Pro-coal at odds with renewable focus
NEW coal will be put on a pedestal by Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd and the Monash Forum as they ramp up efforts to shift the nation's focus from renewable energy.
The pro-coal 'ginger group' will grow louder with its campaigning next week for four, high-efficiency, low-emissions, coal-fired power stations.
The forum is an alliance of 20 MPs against the nation's energy policy.
The renewed fight for coal was prompted by concerns of an "energy crisis" after a New South Wales aluminium plant shut off some pot lines for an hour last weekend.
Tomago Aluminium said the smelter had no choice, given the circumstances, but to shut off some of its production.
However, its power supplier AGL said the plant voluntarily reduced its electricity load as part of a commercial contract.
Generators at five of the six NSW coal-fired power stations were hit by outages.
And the Australian Energy Market Operator said thick cloud cover and rain reduced the output of solar generation at the same time.
Mr O'Dowd said Tomago's production cut was proof the nation needed more coal-fired power.
"The evidence is there ... these states (Victoria and New South Wales) are staking all their being on solar and wind and saying this is the answer," he said.
"Risking jobs for paddocks of solar power is short-sighted as industry and households will be held hostage when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow."
The pro-coal group is also concerned by Liberal National Party Queensland leader Deb Frecklington's "plan for a future beyond coal", revealed during her formal reply to Tuesday's state budget.
Ms Frecklington said she would require state-owned power companies to invest in renewables to deliver an "affordable, secure and clean" energy mix.
Mr O'Dowd said the Monash Forum would use advertisements, flyers and the media to spread facts about coal-fired power that would trump the "doomsayers".
Members for Capricornia, Hinkler and Dawson are also part of the pro-coal ginger group.
Its most high-profile member is former prime minister Tony Abbott.
Labor candidate for Flynn Zac Beers said it was the current government's lack of policy direction that had caused the energy crisis.
Mr Beers said while coal-fired power would always form a significant part of the energy mix, it was cheaper to bring online new energy by building generation capacity through renewables.
"If we want to reduce energy costs for households and businesses then it makes sense to build the capacity by increasing the power generated through renewable energy sources," he said.
The Monash Forum's crusade comes days after Gladstone Development Board chairman Leo Zussino told a crowd of business people that hydrogen would be one of the key pillars for Gladstone's economic future.
Meanwhile four solar projects are on the horizon in Gladstone, including a 300MW farm at Aldoga state development land.
Mr O'Dowd said Gladstone residents knew the impact of power prices, citing last year's job losses at Boyne Smelter Limited.
In May BSL general manager Joe Rea said the smelter had completed a trial of modifying some equipment to increase production, without using more energy.