Fresh doubts have been raised about the viability of the federal government's proposed Kurri Kurri gas peaking plant following the release of new data showing demand for gas is declining.
National Electricity Market data shows gas generation fell in every state in Australia between the first half of 2021.
Renewable energy sources - including wind, solar, hydroelectricity and biomass - supplied 28.8 per cent of electricity in Australia's main grid. Gas supplied just 6.1 per cent of electricity generation.
The government is pushing ahead with the $600 million 1000 megawatt gas-fired peaker at Kurri on the basis that it will be needed to provide stability to the grid following the closure of Liddell power station in 2023.
Critics of the project argue the new gas data is further evidence the plant is not needed.
"Every taxpayer dollar spent on new gas-fired power infrastructure is at risk of being wasted on unnecessary stranded assets," said Climate Council spokesman and former BP Australasia President Greg Bourne said.
"The International Energy Agency has made it clear that in order to meet net zero emissions by 2050 globally, no new fossil fuels reserves can be developed. This warning also aligns with our own Australian Energy Market Operator, which wants Australia's grid ready to handle 100 percent renewable energy by 2025.
"The Government needs to acknowledge this advice and acknowledge the fact that the NSW Kurri Kurri gas power station is not required in our future energy mix."
Of the National Energy Market's 33 large gas power stations, 29 of them operated at less than 20 percent of their capacity and 13 operated less than five percent of the time.
"That is why we are seeing things like a unit at AGL's Torrens B gas power station shut up shop for six months," Mr Bourne said.
"Gas will play an ever-decreasing role in the new energy economy. Should the Federal Government force gas into the market by underwriting the risks, it is likely to drive up household power prices and prices for our manufacturing.
"Gas simply cannot compete with renewable energy, which is bringing down power prices for consumers and creating a cleaner, healthier energy system," he said.
Madeline Taylor, senior lecturer in energy and natural resources law at Macquarie University, said renewable energy generation increased by almost 20 percent in the National Energy Market in the first half of 2021, with a 35 percent jump in NSW and 41 percent jump in Western Australia.
"Why are we investing in gas-fired power stations when the need for gas in our electricity system is clearly disappearing?" Dr Taylor said.
"Gas is expensive, polluting, and diminishing in importance and relevance to the National Electricity Market as states and territories rapidly roll-out large-scale renewable energy and storage."
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Gas Free Hunter Alliance spokeswoman Fiona Lee said the group was disappointed the state government continued to support the Hunter Gas pipeline and indirectly, the Kurri Kurri gas plant.
"The conservative International Energy Agency has forecast declining demand for gas in the coming decade and people of the lower Hunter deserve long-term sustainable jobs of the future, including renewable energy- not to be lumped with an expensive lost opportunity like fossil fuels," she said.
"The state government can't have it both ways. It makes no sense to have a net zero emissions target and still be supportive of new fossil fuel projects like Kurri Kurri gas plant and the Hunter pipeline project.
"There is no economic or environmental reason to support gas and AEMO itself forecasts no shortfall of dispatchable power generation in NSW."
Electricity consultant David Leitch previously told the Newcastle Herald that the project would not be commercially viable if the government was not subsidising it.
"It's basically a very expensive plant that isn't really needed. You can't say it's bad if it's built because it will be like a desal plant - it's great to have that insurance there but it's not going to be very economic I don't think," he said.
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