The AGL chief executive, Andy Vesey, says he plans to “fully execute” his vision of transforming the Liddell coal-fired power station into a renewables hub, saying it will bring cheaper, greener and more reliable energy, while providing quality, long-term jobs for decades.
Vesey left little doubt about his desired future for the plant during a speech on energy policy on Friday, again defying renewed pressure from the Turnbull government.
He said transforming the site into an integrated renewables hub – comprising renewable generation, batteries, gas and demand response – would be vastly preferable to extending its life for several years.
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“This plan is more reliable, it is a better cost alternative, and provides lower impact on the environment,” he said. “As well as having the continued economic activity at that site, which the community depends on, and having jobs, high quality jobs, that will last for decades.”
Vesey was speaking at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia event in Sydney following sustained pressure from the Turnbull government over the future of Liddell.
The federal government wants to extend the plant’s life until its expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme is completed.
The former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce accused AGL of “shorting the market” by hanging on to the ageing power plant, despite at least some level of interest from Alinta Energy.
The energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, questioned why AGL had suddenly become so interested in keeping Liddell, given that last year the company said it was on a “sliding scale to oblivion”. He said AGL had a “duty” to consider the offer.
“They have a fiduciary duty to properly consider the offer from Alinta, and we know that Alinta is very serious,” he told Sky News.
Vesey addressed that point directly before beginning his address on Friday.
“I want to start this by addressing one of the elephants in the room and that is that AGL is a public company. From time to time we will get unsolicited bids on various components of our business,” he said.
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“We are duty bound to review them. If they have merit, if they have value for our shareholders, benefits for our customers, they meet the obligations that we have to the communities we serve and our people, we will take them very seriously.”
Vesey said Liddell remained an “extremely valuable piece of our portfolio” until its closure. But he said the plan AGL had proposed for Liddell had anticipated the Turnbull government’s national energy guarantee.
“The plan that we put together anticipated the national energy guarantee, it anticipated policy settings that would direct the competitive market to deliver what the market needs,” Vesey said.
“We believe in competitive markets and everybody should have a chance to actually have other plans, and other technologies … but if the market doesn’t respond, we plan on fully executing our plan,” he said.
He said prices would come down as more and more investment in renewables took place, a simple matter of supply and demand.