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EnergyAustralia to close Yallourn coal plant in 2028 as country’s renewable transition gains speed

March 10, 2021


EnergyAustralia will accelerate the closure of a 100-year-old coal-fired plant and install a giant storage battery to achieve a faster transition to clean power that’s leaving aging fossil fuel sites uncompetitive.

The Yallourn site in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, which supplies about 20% of electricity demand in the state, will shut by mid-2028 rather than 2032, the unit of Hong Kong-based CLP Holdings Ltd. said in a statement.

Under the plan, the electricity retailer will add a four-hour, 350-megawatt utility-scale storage battery — larger than anything currently in operation globally — in the same region as the coal plant by 2026.

Australia, which added a record amount of new renewable capacity last year, is an exemplar for the challenges the global energy sector faces in transitioning away from fossil fuels. A rush by households to install rooftop solar panels, and a surge in new grid-scale capacity, has hollowed daytime electricity demand and forced wholesale prices lower, upending the business models of utilities reliant on coal-fired power stations.

While coal still accounts for the bulk of Australia’s energy mix, a surge in new renewable generation capacity through 2025 will pressure more expensive fossil fuel assets and leave many plants uneconomic, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said in a report last month.

Around 9 gigawatts of coal capacity out of Australia’s total of 25 gigawatts is vulnerable to early closure, according to Leonard Quong, BloombergNEF’s head of Australia research. BNEF is tracking 4.8 gigawatts of utility-scale solar and 3.6 gigawatts of wind farms currently under construction in Australia, and also expects about 2.8 gigawatts of rooftop solar to be added this year. Yallourn “won’t be the last, coal project squeezed out of the market by the rapidly rising tide of renewable energy,” Quong said. “The enormous amount of cheap renewable energy being built around the country represents a fundamental risk to profitability.”

[David Stringer]

More: Century-old Australia coal plant makes way for giant battery

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