Loud chorus of criticism for Eraring extension


The fact is pollution from power stations is
contributing to early deaths in our region, and now all of NSW is paying for that too, thanks to the
Minn’s government. It seems that damning findings of the 2021 inquiry into NSW coal ash waste
dumps chaired by Daniel Mookhey MP, now NSW Treasurer have been sidelined

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The environmental and health impacts of the NSW Government’s bailout of the dirty, polluting, inefficient, expensive Eraring coal-fired power station has resulted in a deafening chorus of criticism strong and loud enough to be heard across the state.

Hunter Community Environment Centre Coordinator Jo Lynch said, “The extension of Eraring
has deeply dismayed community members living daily with the environmental and health impacts of
coal power, and who want to see the renewable energy transition succeed.

The NSW Government has shown enough leniency to coal companies and this huge taxpayer
handout for Eraring will prolong the ill effects of coal ash waste dumping and toxic stack emissions
impacting community health, the lake ecosystem and our climate.”

An estimated 900,000 additional tonnes of coal ash waste is expected to be dumped in Eraring’s ash
dam to accommodate the 2 year extension.

Lyn Fraser, Lake resident and Secretary of Coal-ash Community Alliance calling for an end to
ash waste dumping said, “Local communities deserve a cleaner environment. It is not a good policy to
throw more public money at the fossil fuel industry. Let’s give our community, workers and the
environment a better chance for the future. Let’s clean up the exposed ash dams and focus on
investment in renewable energy”.

Gary Blaschke, a Central Coast advocate with Future Sooner, a group taking action to address
the public health impacts of coal fired power said, “The fact is pollution from power stations is
contributing to early deaths in our region, and now all of NSW is paying for that too, thanks to the
Minn’s government. It seems that damning findings of the 2021 inquiry into NSW coal ash waste
dumps chaired by Daniel Mookhey MP, now NSW Treasurer have been sidelined.”

Research into the health impacts of coal power completed by Dr Ben Ewald in 2018, found that
particulate pollution lowers the birthweight of an estimated 200 newborns, contribute to almost 300
premature deaths and 200 diagnoses of early onset diabetes per year.

The release of this years National Pollutant Inventory Data last month recorded a 130% spike in
mercury emissions from Eraring, and an 88% increase in fine particulates linked to cancer.

Jacqui Mills, Climate and Energy campaigner at the Nature Conservation Council says, “To get
us back on track to meet climate goals, the NSW Government must now turbocharge the race to
renewable energy, and ensure we never again have to fork out public money to delay
coal closures.”

Coal Keeper 2.0

Tim Buckley, director of independent public interest think tank Climate Energy Finance released the following statement on the announcement of a 2 year extension to the operation of the Eraring coal power station on the NSW Central Coast, Australia’s largest.

“The news that the NSW government has committed to pay up to $450m of public money to cover likely losses by coal operator Origin Energy to keep Eraring power station open to 2027, 2 years beyond its planned August 2025 closure date, is the devastating consequence of a decade of government planning failure. 

“This is essentially Coalkeeper 2.0 – yet another massive coal subsidy funded by electricity users in NSW, with the NSW Government committing to pay Origin to keep all 4 units of the 2.88 gigawatt (GW) Eraring open for another two years.

“It represents the decade long failure of the NSW Government to accelerate the evaluation and approval of key new replacement generation capacity ahead of the closure of coal power generation assets that are known to be at the end of their design life, putting at risk energy security for the people of NSW. Clean energy infrastructure projects have been left for years languishing in the development pipeline. 

“It stands as a symbol of the failure of privatisation of key strategic assets like the biggest coal fired power plant in the country without consumer protections.

“It shows the failure of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to respond to the climate and energy crisis and accelerate the approval and grid connection of key new generation and firming assets to the grid. 

“And it highlights the failure of Origin to ensure a viable long term coal supply for the single largest coal power plant in the country or to invest in zero emissions solutions ahead of closure.

“Critically, this decision is a powerful disincentive to clean energy investors that sends exactly the wrong signal. It will act as a deterrent to private capital looking for opportunities to invest in the energy transition as the world rapidly decarbonises. 

“Instead of action to position the state as a clean energy investment destination, we now are lumped with CoalKeeper 2.0, with households taking the hit to put the end of life coal clunker on life support. 

“This is a mighty blow to the people of NSW crushed under fossil fuel energy price hyperinflation and cost of living pressures.

“This will be another cost borne by each and every residence in the state to both fund the subsidy and wear higher wholesale power prices as new firmed renewable electricity capacity is crowded out and undermined by the policy back-flip.

“That’s $450m that could be going into the pockets of people struggling to pay energy bills, like in QLD where every household will receive a $1,000 Cost of Living Rebate on power bills. 

“That’s half a billion that could be used to incentivise new solar on more roofs across the state, and to subsidise batteries and heat pumps for homes, apartments, renters and businesses, permanently reducing their energy bills.

“That’s ten times the amount NSW has committed to energy upgrades (solar, heat pumps and insulation) on community and government social housing across the state ($22m per year). 

“The NSW government has now left action on transition and a decision so late that they have no other option than to capitulate.

“The solution is and always has been to pivot state public capital investment to expedite firmed renewables and prioritise approvals of the multitude of private investment proposals for new generation capacity, including battery firming. 

“We call on NSW Energy Minister Penny Sharpe to commit public funds at speed and scale to an accelerated roll out of consumer energy resources, such as rooftop solar and batteries, particularly in the lagging commercial and industry sector, leveraging the 50% decline in solar module and battery export prices out of China in the last 12 months. This can be done at speed and scale within the existing grid network system.

“And we need NSW Planning Minister Paul Scully to explain how many of the 18 new project assessments he promised the people of NSW in 2024 have been, met five months into this year. And to then give a weekly update on his department’s progress in permanently solving the rolling NSW energy crisis by accelerating low-cost zero-emissions firmed energy solutions. 

“We call for an immediate pause on all new export coal mine approvals and a reallocation of the state’s clearly limited planning capacity to focus on the clean energy solutions needed for NSW citizens as the only priority. 

“We have a combined energy, climate and cost of living crisis. There is zero excuse for any further delay. Energy consumers have had enough and want solutions to permanently reduce energy prices and ensure energy security in the state now – solutions consistent with slashing emissions and meeting the state’s emissions reduction targets as the climate crisis mounts.

“And investors want policy certainty from governments demonstrably committed to energy transition.”

What healthy future?

Healthy Futures was one of many NGO’s to express their deep disappointment at the announcement that NSW Premier Chris Minns is extending the life of Australia’s largest coal-fired power station.

Last year, Healthy Futures on behalf of a number of peak health organisations in NSW,  wrote to the NSW Government urgently asking for the replacement of fossil fuel based energy with renewable energy as fast as possible, and not to extend Eraring’s operations. 

The news that Eraring will continue to operate past its planned closure date, with public money, comes just weeks after G7 nations announced a historic and much needed commitment to phasing out coal power stations by 2035. This discrepancy highlights Australia is beholden to the fossil fuel industry and is fast becoming an energy laggard as the world shifts towards clean energy. 

Healthy Futures campaigner, Dr Bronwyn McDonald, said, “It is incredulous logic to prop up a dirty coal power station while the world moves decisively towards renewables. This decision prioritises the short term interests of the fossil fuel industry over the health of our communities and the future of our planet” 

Extending the life of Eraring further locks NSW into high polluting energy sources, and burdens taxpayers and energy consumers with unnecessary costs. This extraordinary amount of money would be far better directed towards investments in renewable energy, which are cleaner and will provide more affordable energy. Renewables offer a reliable, and sustainable path to energy security, unlike coal power stations, which also pollute more as they age. 

Continuing reliance on coal directly compromises public health. Coal fired power stations are a major source of air pollution, which contributes to respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and even cancer. By prioritising renewables we can ensure cleaner air for all NSW residents. 

Last year, Healthy Futures, along with the support of the NSW Royal Australian College General Practitioners, Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Doctors for the Environment Australia, Asthma Australia, the Australasian Epidemiological Association, and the Public Health Association of Australia, wrote to Premier Minns expressing their deep concern about any possible extension of operations at Eraring and the significant health impacts this would have.

Healthy Futures also support calls from energy experts and environment groups for transparency around the reported decision to keep Eraring open. The justifications and full details of the proposal are needed, and Healthy Futures urges the Government to reconsider any decisions that would see coal fired power stations operate a day longer than needed, and instead invest in a cleaner, healthier future for NSW.


Parents for Climate is appalled by the NSW Government’s decision to back coal instead of clean energy by extending the life of Australia’s largest coal-fired power station, Eraring, near Newcastle.

Nic Seton, CEO for Parents for Climate said: “This go-slow decision on climate action undermines investment in clean energy and increases dangerous climate pollution that is harming NSW families now. Families struggling with bills want to see governments invest in long-term solutions that lower electricity bills, not expensive delays to our clean energy transition.

“We know that clean energy is the best way to reduce power bills without polluting the air for little lungs in the Hunter, or making extreme weather worse. This is a backwards step on climate action and a betrayal of our kids, who will cop the impact of years more pollution across their lifetimes. 

“NSW is veering off-track from its climate pollution targets and more NSW families are facing increased extreme weather impacts, rising insurance bills, rising costs for fresh produce as climate pollution continues. NSW needs to invest this money in solutions, like batteries and solar panels. 

“Our kids need to know we are doing everything we can to reduce carbon pollution as quickly as possible – keeping coal in the mix is not the answer.”

Targets threatened

Solar Citizens has condemned the NSW Government for undermining the urgent transition to cheaper, cleaner renewables, including solar, by extending the production of dirty coal-fired power at Eraring for four years.

Solar Citizens CEO Heidi Lee Douglas said, “It’s deeply disappointing that in 2024 the NSW Government is backing yesterday’s outdated, polluting technology and passing the cost of keeping coal-fired power open to NSW’s energy users.

“While media reports suggest there is no upfront payment to Origin Energy to keep Eraring open, the community is paying the cost of a missed opportunity to invest more in rooftop solar, batteries connected to home solar, energy efficiency and associated infrastructure as better alternatives for NSW’s power supply.

“The Government also needs to be transparent on whether or not additional costs will be placed on customer energy bills because of this decision, now or in the future.

“Rooftop solar provides the most economical possible energy to customers and this is where the smart money should be spent for NSW’s energy supply.

“This must not happen again. Solar Citizens calls on the NSW Government to legislate for no further extensions for any existing NSW coal power facilities beyond their agreed license for polluting power production.

“Solar Citizens also asks for the upcoming NSW State Budget to include a substantial investment in support for more solar for those currently locked out of energy savings  – like residents in social housing, and to provide a ‘battery booster’ rebate for household batteries. This is so we can continue the overwhelming success of household solar and use cheap, clean solar at night, and reduce our carbon emissions.

“Extending coal power at Eraring means more expensive energy bills and more carbon emissions. The decision to extend Eraring threatens our national Net Zero targets. Premier Chris Minns’ decision today has national implications.

“This government talks the talk on zero emissions and taking ‘serious climate action’, now it must walk the walk by moving away from fossil fuels and supporting renewables and solar,” Ms Douglas said.


Now that Origin Energy is being paid by taxpayers to keep Eraring coal fired power station open it should be forced to sell electricity at fair prices, to serve the interests of its taxpayers not just shareholders, Rewiring Australia said.

“The NSW government should now send a clear signal to the market and the community that this will not be repeated with other coal-fired power stations. Given that Eraring is now a public-private partnership the NSW government must ensure that the price it sells electricity for reflects the public interest” said Dan Cass, executive director of Rewiring Australia. “If Eraring is kept open on the coin of taxpayers, its owner, Origin, must be prevented from bidding to increase profit margin and should simply earn its cost back plus a minimum return.”

Under the privatised, free market design of the National Electricity Market, large coal and gas power stations are able to drive up prices in the wholesale market, to maximise profits. Almost all consumers are on contracts that protect them for high wholesale prices in the short term but over the long term they pay for high generator profits from high wholesale prices. 

Under the announced agreement, Origin’s Eraring coal-fired power station will be underwritten by the NSW Government to remain open until mid-2027, at a potential cost to the NSW public of $225 million per year. In return Origin will have to ensure Eraring generates at least six terawatt hours of electricity each year. In February, Origin posted a 17-fold increase in half yearly profit to $747 million, after benefiting from a sharp rise in revenue in its household-facing division.   

“Market failure in the NEM has forced Australian states into a situation where they feel there is no option other than using public funds to prop up privately owned coal-fired power stations. This is a direct consequence of privatisation, where the interests of shareholders chafe against the public interest, which is to see the rapid and orderly retirement of coal fired power plants,” 

“Fossil fuel energy providers are notorious for manipulating the energy market to gouge the public. Queensland’s state owned generators have been directed to refrain from this conduct and now that Eraring is underwritten by the NSW taxpayer, similar public protections should apply.”

“This extension will make it harder for NSW to meet emissions targets so they must show how they can accelerate action in other areas such as household electrification,” Cass said.

Energy Minister Penny Sharpe has made clear that the Eraring underwriting deal will not be extended beyond 2027.

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