Senator Matthew Canavan mine

$5bn federal funding could be used for clean coal says Senator

A Central Queensland Senator is proposing part of $5 billion in Federal Government funding be made available for clean coal projects.

Rockhampton-based The Hon Matthew Canavan (pictured) recently revealed on radio that he would be open to having the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) offer concessional loans for investment in the clean coal sector.

“I have received some interest … associated with our commitment to build base-load power stations, including to support clean coal options. It is also the case that a GHD report a couple of years ago indicated that clean coal-fired power stations could be commercially viable in North Queensland,” Canavan told the ABC.

“Some might not realise that in North Queensland there is no base-load power station north of Rockhampton. And industrial consumers in North Queensland pay often up to double the prices in southern Queensland because of the cost of transporting the electricity to the north.”

NAIF offers up to $5 billion over five years in concessional finance to encourage and complement private sector investment in infrastructure that “benefits Northern Australia”. This includes developments in airports, communications, energy, ports, rail and water.

Canavan believes the investment could create more competitive electricity prices.

“I am not surprised that existing generators do not want another large-scale base-load power station to come into the market, particularly in an area like North Queensland, where they are clearly making good money selling electricity now at very high prices,” he says.

“Good luck to them and good luck to them in the market! But what I am about is the national interest, and what I’m about is making sure that households and businesses can have access to cheap and affordable power. And we need that if we want to maintain a manufacturing industry in this country. We need base-load power. We have got refineries in Townsville; we’ve got a smelter in Gladstone, all of whom are struggling under those high prices in north Queensland.

“And they need reliable supply. They need base-load supply. No reason why we shouldn’t have a very vibrant metals manufacturing industry with good, high-paying jobs for people. We’ve got the minerals. We’ve got the cheap coal. The clean coal technologies are proven. We should be smart enough to do it, like other countries are.”

According to Canavan, Japan is one of 19 countries that have submitted commitments under its Paris agreement targets that they are seeking to invest in clean coal.

“Japan has a very similar target to our own. And we know from the technologies that exist and are proven that they can cut coal-fired power emissions by up to 30 per cent and possibly higher if other technologies emerge commercially,” Canavan says.

To be eligible any clean coal project would have to meet guidelines outlined in the Investment Mandate, including consultation requirements, eligibility criteria and the types of financial assistance that can be offered.

Federal Parliament passed the NAIF Act 2016 in May 2016 and is headquartered in Cairns. NAIF is supported by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, Australia’s export credit agency.

Canavan is responsible for the NAIF, which is led by an independent Board. Sharon Warburton chairs the Board of NAIF, which includes:

  • Khory McCormick (Qld)
  • Dr Sally Pitkin (Qld)
  • Bill Shannon (Qld)
  • Karla Way-McPhail (Qld)
  • Barry Coulter (NT)
  • Justin Mannolini (WA)
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