Australian Labor Party Supports Gas Plant, If It Switches To Hydrogen

By Daniel Khmelev
Daniel Khmelev
Daniel Khmelev
Daniel Khmelev is an Australian reporter based in Perth covering energy, tech, and politics.
February 2, 2022Updated: February 9, 2022

The Australian Labor Party (ALP)—one that typically campaigns against fossil fuels—has decided to endorse the government’s latest gas-fired power station under the condition that it will eventually run solely on hydrogen.

The $600 million Kurri Kurri gas plant in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales was announced by the current right-leaning Liberal Party government to help replace capacity following the closure of the ageing Liddell coal-fired power station in 2023.

But the decision was decried by environmental groups, along with members of the ALP—including Labor Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, who referred to the project as a “waste of taxpayer money.”

However, as part of a visit to Kurri Kurri in the lead up to the federal election, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese reversed his stance, suggesting that the gas plant should go ahead, with hydrogen added into the mix.

Epoch Times Photo
Australian Labor Party Leader Anthony Albanese speaks at the National Press Club in Canberra, Australia, on Jan. 25, 2022. (Rohan Thomson/Getty Images)

“What today’s announcement does is just that. It takes a flawed approach and makes it work by ensuring that the Kurri Kurri plant can stay open, run by gas, but with 30 percent green hydrogen from the beginning, but working up to being powered by green hydrogen in the future,” Albanese said on Feb. 1.

“Green” hydrogen—produced through electrolysis by passing an electrical current through water—has been touted as a carbon dioxide-free fuel of the future when used in conjunction with renewable energy.

In particular, Albanese assured that the Labor government would not tear up an already initiated deal and undermine the jobs it secured, instead offering hydrogen as a solution that would make the best of the available infrastructure.

“Contracts have been issued. And we’re not into creating sovereign risk,” Albanese said.

“How do you make what’s a flawed model better and make it work? And that’s why the transition to green hydrogen, up to 30 percent immediately … is the right way to go, and then to transform the project to drive a green hydrogen industry in the Hunter [Valley].”

However, Federal Energy and Emissions Minister Angus Taylor was quick to ridicule the backflip.

“Labor has spent the better part of the year ridiculing this critical project. Embarrassingly, Anthony Albanese has now been forced into accepting the Morrison Government’s position that this project stacks up,” Taylor said.

Epoch Times Photo
Minister for Energy Angus Taylor at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

The federal government is banking on advancements in solar cell technology to dramatically lower the price of solar energy by 2035, one of six key areas in its Technology Investment Roadmap, with the eventual goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

At this point, with ultra low cost solar, green hydrogen would also become economical.

Taylor also accused Labor of spruiking a plan without providing any details or the logistics behind it.

“You can’t do postcode policy on hydrogen. They need to clarify where they will source the hydrogen from and how much it will cost,” he said.

“The economics of 100 percent green hydrogen this decade is unproven. At current prices running the Hunter [Gas] Power Project on 100 percent green hydrogen would cause it to run at a loss.”

It is worthy to note that both Labor and the incumbent Liberal-Nationals coalition have declared receiving millions in dollars in political donations by the fossil fuel industry, as outlined by a recent report by the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Unaddressed Concerns of the Renewable Rollout

However, green hydrogen will require swathes of wind and solar generation to operate, but a wide range of concerns regarding renewable sources remain unanswered.

A report released by the Australian Human Rights Commission highlighted worrying reports of solar, wind, and battery technology involving slave labour across the world, such as China and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

China—the world’s largest producer of solar panels—has also enslaved millions of ethnic Uyghur, Kyrgyz, and Kazakh citizens who have been found to be involved in the solar supply chain.

This is one out of an extensive list of human rights abuses the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been accused of, which also includes the mass forced organ harvesting of Falun Dafa adherents and the persecution of Tibetans.

But China continues to be the dominant supplier in Australia’s solar market, supplying 90 percent of Australia’s solar panels—including most of the panels in the nation’s largest operating solar farms—a point raised by the leader of the United Australia Party, Craig Kelly.

Kelly raised further concerns that the purchase of solar and wind components entailed a transfer of wealth worth billions of dollars directly from Australia to the CCP.

“If you go through what the policies are, they are more subsidies for wind turbines and solar panels—which we buy from China,” Kelly said on The Epoch Times’ show Australia Calling.

Epoch Times Photo
Federal MP Craig Kelly speaking to David Flint during an episode of Australia Calling. (The Epoch Times)

Kelly suggested that the cost of solar—which is estimated to be the cheapest form of energy in Australia—is able to do so in part due to the exploitation of cheap labour.

“The Chinese are very clever: move the production out to use the cheap labour of the Uyghurs to keep the solar panels at a price that will dominate the market and will wipe out all the competition,” Kelly said.

The global outcry to cut CO2 levels has recently multiplied following a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which concluded CO2 to be the primary contributor to global warming. However, this point has been challenged by peer-reviewed research questioning the report authors’ decision to omit the effects of solar energy from their analysis.

Kelly also questioned the push to lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Australia whilst it continued to export hundreds of millions of tonnes of its own coal from the coal-rich region of Hunter Valley—the same location of the Kurri Kurri gas plant—to China.

“We produce 1.1-1.2 percent of global CO2. When we close industries down, that industry relocated to China. Those same goods are manufactured on a more carbon-intensive grid than our grid, so your CO2 emissions globally—which is what counts—go up. It’s insane.”

Despite being one of the world’s top adopters of solar, wind, and battery technology, Australia continues to have virtually no manufacturing capabilities to produce its own.