AGL's decision to shut its coal-fired power plant in the face of government opposition is simple economics, the company said on Wednesday.
The energy company made clear at its annual general meeting that it remains committed to the flagged closure of its 1680 megawatt Liddell coal-fired power plant in 2022.
AGL first announced its intention to close the power plant in 2015, however in 2017 the federal government urged the generator to keep it open in order to avoid a potential electricity shortage, which AGL rejected.
A change in AGL's leadership and the federal energy minister raised questions that the company may keep the power plant open, but on Wednesday, AGL's board was unequivocal that it will close the power station in NSW’s Hunter Valley.
“In 2015 we announced a greenhouse gas policy, and we pointed to the fact our coal fleet has a natural operational life and would retire at the end of that life,” AGL chairman Graeme Hunt said.
“What we said [in 2015] was the right way forward and we still consider it is today.”
Brett Redman, the interim chief executive, said the company was staying the course outlined by former CEO Andy Vesey.
“The most common question I have been asked is whether I anticipate a change in strategic direction of AGL, my answer, in a word, is no,” Mr Redman said.
“As Australia’s largest emitter of carbon, we have an obligation to our shareholders and other financial counter-parties to manage their exposure to carbon risk.
“The question of closure dates is an operational one: of ensuring ageing coal plants are retired responsibly and safely as we work through [energy] transition.,” he said.
“It is not a question of ideology on our part, and neither is the need to address our carbon exposure more generally.”
The issue of AGL's proposed LNG import terminal at Crib Point in Victoria was also a key focus for shareholders during the AGM.
Shareholder representatives raised concerns over the safety of the floating gas terminal and the impact it will have on the internationally recognised Ramsar-listed wetlands.
Mr Hunt said if the company had another option to source gas for its Victorian major gas consumers it would, but with current Victorian moratoriums around onshore gas exploration there are few available non-contracted sources.
"If we could readily source gas without having to import it that would be a more favourable situation, but we don't," Mr Hunt said.
"The fundamental basis for us to move ahead with this is that we have customers that require gas, either the customers don't get gas or it comes from somewhere else.
"The board will weigh up all these issues, both economics and risks, and our appropriate ability to fully mitigate risk in the decision making process."
Mr Hunt said the company would also announce its official CEO by the end of the year.
The Sydney Morning Herald