NSW Liddell coal plant’s life extended by AGL

AGL Energy has pushed out the retirement date for its ageing Liddell Power Station, announcing last week that the NSW coal plant would be closed in April 2023 – a year later than scheduled.

The decision marks a significant change of tack by AGL, which has for years now resisted – and even ridiculed – calls from the federal Coalition to extend the life of the 2000MW fossil fuel generator.

In a statement to the ASX, AGL said that it had taken the decision to help the national energy market cope with the “critical summer months.” The closure of the company Torrens A gas power station in South Australia would likewise be delayed, it said.

“AGL has today informed AEMO that the first unit at Liddell will close in April 2022. However, following an independent engineering assessment, AGL has determined that the remaining three units will close in April 2023, supporting system reliability throughout the 2022-23 summer months.”

The move – and the logic behind it – is particularly surprising, considering AGL’s previous position that it would  replaced Liddell with renewable energy, gas and storage, because it was old, increasingly unreliable, and expensive to run.

Just two years ago, AGL made a nonsense of the idea that extending Liddell would increase energy security, least of all in the hot summer months, when old coal clunkers are known to buckle in the heat.

“Since AGL acquired Liddell from the NSW Government in 2015, AGL has invested $123 million in the plant to improve reliability,” it said in its statement. “Despite this investment, during the February 2017 heatwave, two units from Liddell were out of the market due to unforeseeable boiler tube leaks. As a result, there was not enough energy in the system and NSW experienced blackouts in parts of the State.”