AGL, the operator of Bayswater and Liddell power stations in NSW's Hunter Valley, should accelerate its transition away from coal to prevent further damage to the health of Hunter residents and the environment, Greenpeace says.
A new Greenpeace report, Coal-faced: exposing AGL as Australia's biggest climate polluter, also says the company's 'blinkered vision' regarding coal is hurting the region's economic prospects.
"Coal has been an important part of the Hunter for generations, but now, as cheaper, cleaner renewables take the lead, energy companies like AGL must plan for the inevitable transition away from coal - but instead, AGL is choosing to bury its head in the sand, and that puts everyone at risk," Greenpeace Australia Pacific Head of Research and Investigations Dr Nikola Casule said.
"As our new report shows, coal power generation is becoming increasingly unprofitable, and the recent internal turbulence at AGL, from the risky proposed demerger through to the recent abrupt departure of former CEO Brett Redman, is the sign of a company in trouble. And companies in trouble can behave recklessly."
The report also examines the health impacts that AGL's operations have on local communities, which include increased risk of childhood asthma and lower birth weights.
Singleton GP Bob Vickers accused AGL of ignoring the health impacts of its coal-fired operations.
"AGL has known for many years that pollution filtering technology could reduce the nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide emissions by over 90 per cent, and this would lead to reductions in premature deaths, fewer newborns with low birthweight and lower rates of childhood asthma. These filters are well within AGL's financial capacity to install," he said.
"AGL is putting profit above the health of the communities it operates in."
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An AGL spokeswoman said the company understood its responsibility as Australia's largest energy generator to drive transition to a cleaner energy future while maintaining the supply of reliable and affordable power.
"Coal-fired power from all providers in Australia contributes 80 per cent of power to the National Electricity Market. AGL's three coal generators (Loy Yang A, Bayswater and Liddell) are the lowest cost generators of their type and contribute approximately 21per cent of the NEM operational demand," she said.
"Our decarbonisation strategy is clearly set out in our Climate Statement, which includes a target of net zero emissions by 2050 and commitments to exit coal-fired power that endure from AGL's 2015 greenhouse gas policy."
She said the company continued to invest in emissions reduction programs and conduct regular maintenance across all sites to ensure it improved efficiencies and met regulatory and environmental requirements.
The company is exploring options aimed at delivering new energy generation in the Hunter Region .
"As we progress our closure and transition plans for the Liddell Power Station, we are exploring investment options that will assist Australia's energy transition, including the development of the site as an energy hub that will house solar storage systems, grid-scale batteries and a waste to energy facility," she said.