Claim Australians Back HELE Coal Power Questioned

Results from a poll indicating 68% of Australians surveyed back so-called high-efficiency, low emissions (HELE) coal fired power generation have been met with a healthy degree of skepticism.

As we mentioned earlier today, HELE coal fired power stations aren’t all that highly efficient or low in emissions; with the latter ranging from 800-880g CO2/kWh (Supercritical HELE) down to 670-740g CO2/kWh for advanced ultra-supercritical HELE. Even at the most optimistic, that’s still 670g CO2/kWh more than wind and solar power.

HELE also still involves digging up the little black rock and environmental carnage that accompanies coal mining, plus emissions when burning it other than CO2 that are toxic.

However, the Minerals Council of Australia says there’s “strong support” in the country for HELE.

“Polling of 1,300 Australians aged 18 and over, conducted during October and November 2017 by JWS Research, found 68% of Australians supported investment in new-generation high technology coal-fired power stations,” crowed the Council.

Unfortunately, it didn’t provide much more detail on this survey, such as how the questions were posed. The devil is very much in the detail.

The survey was carried out after a multimedia campaign touting the claimed advantages of new-generation coal-fired power plants, which the Council claims was:

“a campaign described as clear, educational, relevant and interesting by more than six in ten people surveyed.”

When the Minerals Council posted about the survey on Twitter, the response was swift and fairly brutal.

“BREAKING: 96% of children surveyed want a pet unicorn! HELE is not new, not highly efficient, not low emissions, not cheap, and not going to happen,” tweeted Simon Holmes à Court.

Mr. Holmes à Court is senior advisor to the Energy Transition Hub at Melbourne University and is on the Melbourne Energy Institute’s advisory board.

The was more colorful language used in some other responses that we won’t re-publish here as they contained words our mothers wouldn’t approve of.

While the Minerals Council may make the claim of Australians backing HELE, Twitter responses to the HELE survey post at this point suggest close to 100% don’t. Without further details on the survey, the Twitter result has just as much credibility as the Mineral Council’s claims.

As the name suggests, the Minerals Council of Australia represents Australia’s exploration, mining and minerals processing industry

If you’d like to learn more about what HELE coal power is and isn’t, this post on RenewEconomy by Simon Holmes à Court makes an interesting read.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. Ronald Brakels says

    There is one country that has gone into HELE in a big way and that is China and it is not a miracle. This is the same country that is rapidly expanding its solar and wind capacity at a massive rate. (They’ve also been expanding their nuclear capacity, but have fallen behind and aren’t going to reach their 58 gigawatts by 2020 target.)

  2. I get very irritated seeing oxymoronic ‘clean coal’ propaganda advertised on social media by these Machiavellian special interest groups. If you ask me, they can go to Hele.

  3. There also needs to be more focus on the PM2.5, PM10, SO2 and NOx emissions of these plants, which tend to be largely forgotten – these are the ones that have an immediate impact on human health.

  4. Patrick Comerford says

    Taken straight from the big tobacco playbook on misinformation, dishonest and public manipulation. Do the minerals council think we all came down in the last shower.

  5. When the alternatives are unreliable intermittent sources (solar & wind) or dirty diesels bought by desperate State governments, or Snowy2 which promises to cost nearly as much as the NBN or the NDIS, then no-one should be surprised that tax-payers are favourably disposed to new coal-fired power stations.

    It may be unpalatable for Greens and for those who have tied their careers to uncritical boosting of all things intermittent, but they need to recognise that there is a majority of the population who are more concerned with reliable, cheap power than climate change

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi Pensioner

      AGL has released their plan for replacing the generation of the aging Liddell Power Station when it closes in 2022 and it does not involve new coal capacity, diesel, or pumped hydro. (Although they have said they will look into pumped hydro.) They cost their plan as being 20% cheaper than extending the life of the Liddell Power station. Details are in this article:

      Note that AGL is not known for taking actions that aren’t in its pecuniary interest.

  6. As we have limited hydro rescources the obvious major low emission base-load power source is nuclear which is also supported by the majority of Australians. At the moment in SA the fallback is burning imported diesel fuel – a sad joke but one we hear little about.

    Another smaller scale one would be burning bio-mass aka high temp incineration of rubbish, works very well indeed and less polluting than diesel. In addition saves a lot of effort trying to sort out the many different recyclable plastics. This is done on a reasonable scale in Germany for several years now.

    • Given the true cost of Nuclear Plants, well Australia cannot afford it. It is not cheap, or easy or quick to build. The argument about SA purchasing temporary Diesel powered generators is a non issue, given the plan is to go to gas fired if necessary but obviously hoping that renewable storage options will be built (ie Solar thermal and pumped hydro) more PV large scale and wind then I cannot see the long term justification for investing in coal or rubbish burning. Australia has an abundance on non polluting renewable energy sources and should use them.

  7. “nuclear which is also supported by the majority of Australians”

    Where is the evidence supporting the assertion?

    The evidence of what the public wants, is shown by the expenditure.

    What proportion of Australian households have installed nuclear power generation?

    What proportion of Australian households have installed “biomass” burning electricity generation?

    What proportion of Australian households have installed Hellish coal fired power stations?

    And, as a comparison, what proportion of Australian households have installed domestic rooftop photovoltaic electricity generating systems?

    How many people, compared with the survey sample “supporting” the Hellish coal fired power stations, have gone out and spent their own money on installing and using domestic rooftop photovoltaic electricity generating systems, putting their money where their mouth is”?

    What is the ratio of those numbers?

  8. “the Minerals Council of Australia says there’s “strong support” in the country for HELE.”

    It is a bit like the referendum that we were prohibited from having, to decide whether Australia should become a republic.

    We were never asked the question.
    Crooked parliament.

    Similarly, as far as I am aware, no referendum has been put to the people of Australia, with the question

    Should utility-scale electricity generation in Australia, be from
    1) burning things (coal and other “biomass”),
    2) nuclear meltdowns(I believe that nuclear power generation is only from fission, and not from fusion), or
    3) harnessing wind energy and solar energy?

    Select only one option

    Strange, that. I wonder WHY we have never been asked…

    I wonder what determination, WE, the people, would make.

    We have never been formally (by way of national referendum) asked.

    Of course, if the assertion
    “the Minerals Council of Australia says there’s “strong support” in the country for HELE.”
    is correct, that explains the implicit “Abandon hope, all who enter”, at the entry points to Australia, as projected by the mates of the MCA; the feral parliament.

  9. With the post from Andrew, ending with

    Australia has an abundance on non polluting renewable energy sources and should use them.

    Given that the nem-watch gidget shows a continual output of 16MW, from the (presumably) Carnegie (I think it is) electricity generation from tidal power, whilst that is said to be not cheap, per kWh, with the length of coastline that Australia has, I wonder how the per kWh price of that form of electricity generation, compares with nuclear powered electricity generation (I do not mean inclusive of the devastation and death toll and harm to human and other life forms, that comes from nuclear power plants, only the simple running costs and establishment costs, excluding the cost of the harm involved).

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Electricity from the Rance Tidal Power Station in France, completed in 1966, is estimated to cost around 18 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s about the floor price of electricity from the Hinkley C reactors that are supposed to be built in Wales. Run of the estuary tidal turbines being deployed these days are probably cheaper but clearly not cheap enough for wide deployment.

  10. Chris Thaler says

    The Minerals Council has the only correct answer.
    There are 884 (68% x 1300) identifiable people in Australia in favour of the HELE conundrum!!!
    The rest of us don’t want any part of it !!!

  11. No. Not ‘the rest’ of us. I want HELE coal plants. And I never heard of this survey. I just came here to point out a lot of this article appears to include cross promoting of tweets.

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