Clive Palmer’s Coal Power Play

Clive Palmer - coal fired power station

Image via Clive Palmer | Twitter

In a series of 12 tweets, Waratah Coal Chairman Clive Palmer announced his intention to build a major coal-fired power station in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

The $1.5 billion 700 MW “high efficiency low emission ultra-supercritical” power station would be established on the mining lease for Waratah Coal’s Galilee Coal Project and situated approximately 30 kilometres north of the Central Western Queensland town of Alpha.

The Galilee Coal Project, separate to Adani’s Carmichael project in the same general region (and much larger), will consist of two open cut and four underground mines producing 40 million tonnes of thermal coal per annum for export markets. The power station will supply mine operations, coal transportation and port operations, plus serve Waratah’s North Galilee coal mine development.

“I am putting my money where my mouth is by announcing this new station so we can power Queensland and help bring down energy costs which continue to escalate,” said Mr. Palmer in tweet no. 3 of 12.

However, electricity costs are already reducing (albeit slowly) – and thanks in part to renewable energy putting downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices.

In a video spruiking the project, Mr. Palmer says:

“Coal fired power stations are cheaper than renewable energy, and we are finding that out the hard way”.

This might be the case in this particular instance with Waratah digging the stuff out of the ground for use on-site, but generally speaking new build coal is more expensive than renewables – and has been for a while. Mr. Palmer may want to re-check his calculations.

Still on the topic of cost and learning things the hard way – what about those involved with the negative environmental impacts of the mines and power station?

“High Efficiency Low Emission Ultra-Supercritical” Coal

It sounds pretty impressive – but what does it actually mean in terms of emissions? First, let’s shorten that up a bit – the acronym for “High Efficiency Low Emissions” is HELE. Advanced ultra-supercritical HELE coal fired electricity generation still involves around 670-740g of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. That’s still 670g CO2/kWh more than wind and solar power.

In addition to carbon emissions, HELE plants still spew other nasty stuff that renewables don’t.  As for mining the little black rock, well:

.. it still wreaks the same environmental destruction whether its burned in a conventional or HELE plant.

Currently Waratah Coal holds over 10,000 km² of tenements within the Galilee Basin. Between Waratah Coal and Adani, large chunks of this region could wind up looking like parts of Mordor and have much broader negative impacts.

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. Ah, doesn’t he owe about the cost of the power station, to unpaid ex-employees that lost their jobs because he went broke?

  2. John Crocombe says

    With regard to:
    ““Coal fired power stations are cheaper than renewable energy, and we are finding that out the hard way”.
    This might be the case in this particular instance with Waratah digging the stuff out of the ground for use on-site, but generally speaking new build coal is more expensive than renewables – and has been for a while. Mr. Palmer may want to re-check his calculations.”

    If it is true that “new build coal is more expensive than renewables – and has been for a while.”, why are the Chinese still burning coal to power their factories? (including the production of Solar Panels)

    Is it only because solar power is unreliable??

    • Ronald Brakels says

      New renewable capacity produces electricity at a lower cost than new coal capacity, but old existing coal capacity produces electricity at a lower cost than new large-scale renewable capacity, if it doesn’t have to pay for the cost of health effects and greenhouse gas emissions. So when they don’t have to pay for the harm they cause existing coal generators can continue to turn a profit.

      • John Crocombe says

        It seems that you are also saying that burning our coal in China, in older high polluting base power stations, is more environmentally responsible than burning it here in new low polluting base power stations.

        Overall, we all seem to breathe similar air quality, so what difference does burning coal in Asia, rather than Australia, make to the overall global emissions?

        • Ronald Brakels says

          No, it doesn’t seem like I’m saying that at all. Read through my comment again and I’m sure you’ll agree. Breathing in carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur compounds, particulates, and traces of heavy metal is bad no matter who you are or where you live.

  3. “The $1.5 billion 700 MW” propsed pollution production plant – that amount of money could get quite a few wind turbines installed, and, if my memory is correct, they generally cost about a dollar for each watt of capacity, for utility level wind turbines; eg, about $4 million per 4MW wind turbine?

    Interesting to note, at

    A major North Sea wind power development off Aberdeen which was opposed by Donald Trump has generated its first power.

    A total of 11 turbines make up the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC).

    Power from the wind farm, developed by Swedish energy group Vattenfall, is being exported to the National Grid.


    The 11 turbines are the most powerful in the world with a total generating capacity of 93.2 MW.

    It is estimated the wind farm will produce the equivalent of more than 70% of Aberdeen’s domestic electricity demand.


    the output from EOWDC will itself add significantly to Scotland’s renewable electricity generating capacity, building on figures announced last month that showed installed capacity reached a record 10.4GW in the first three months of 2018 and which also provisionally indicated that renewable sources met an equivalent of 69% of Scotland’s electricity demand in 2017

    Whilst Clive Palmer and the Dutton Dolts, want to keep Australia in the Stone (or, maybe, that should be Coal) Age, Scotland is clearly (including, having clearer skies and clearer minds), leaving Australia centuries behind.

    My understanding is that Scotland has a similar population quantity to Queensland, so, if Clive Palmer really does have access to the specified amount of funds, that could be used for electricity generation (and, if he has worked his way out of his bankruptcy), then, the funds would be better used to provide cheaper and more reliable, clean energy for Queensland, rather than simply trying to poison Queensland and furthe damage the Great Barrier Reef.

    But then, maybe, Clive Palmer simply wants to join, and, become an MP for, the Dutton Dolts – the breakaway Stone Agers of the Loony Neanderthal Party, so they can display their lumps of black faecal matter (supplied by Clive Palmer), in the parliament, and, use the lumps of black faecal matter, to threaten and intimidate other members of the parliament, ito supporting the forced consumption of their lumps of black faecal matter.

  4. My understanding is that $1500million would pay for the supply and installation of about 750MW of wind turbines generation capacity, together with about 750MWh of battery storage, which would be a far better investment.

  5. Ronald Brakels says

    If you look at the Galilee basin on a map you’ll see a lot of expensive transmission capacity would be required for a new coal power station located there. If you point this out you may be told that the power will be used on site to power a coal mine. If this is the case it won’t be much help in lowering electricity prices.

    This is a coal power station to power coal mines to produce coal Australia does not want for India, which is a country that has stated it will end all coal imports. It is also a country where, while there is still a considerable amount of coal capacity that has approval to be built, actual coal power station construction has stalled. Thanks mainly to solar now beating coal on price in India.

    Mr Palmer is not going to be able to find investors for this project. This includes the current Queensland government. He won’t decide to fund it himself. Instead he’ll take his bat and ball and go home when the government refuses to pay for infrastructure it will require. But if he did decide to fund it himself, well, he has experience building dinosaur parks.

  6. Clive Palmer says:

    “Coal fired power stations are cheaper than renewable energy, and we are finding that out the hard way”.

    Not so, as per “Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis – Version 11.0”, published Nov 2017, see:

    Solar PV—Crystalline Utility Scale: US$46 – 53/MWh
    Solar PV—Thin Film Utility Scale: US$43 – 48/MWh
    Solar Thermal Tower with Storage: US$98 – 181/MW h
    Wind: US$30 – 60/MWh

    Gas Peaking: US$156 – 210/MWh
    Nuclear: US$112 – 183/MWh
    Coal: US$60 – 143/MWh
    Gas Combined Cycle: US $42 – 78/MWh

    Not so, per Professor Andrew Blakers’ testimony under oath earlier this year at the NSW Parliament Select Committee on Electricity Supply, Demand and Prices in NSW, see:

    On page 53 of the 21 Feb 2018 public hearing transcript, Professor Blakers stated:

    “The key point that I would like to get across is that the game is up—wind and solar photovoltaics [PV] have won the race. It is a lay-down misere. The number one new generation technology being installed around the world is solar PV, number two is wind, and coal is a distant third. This year, roughly 200 gigawatts of PV and wind new generation capacity will go in around the world, while only 50 gigawatts of coal will go in. That is a difference factor of four between PV and wind and coal. In Australia, virtually all new generation capacity is PV and wind. The reason for this is that PV and wind are decisively cheaper than coal, even when one adds the additional costs to stabilise a variable renewable energy supply, such as storage, primarily in the forms of batteries and pumped hydro; stronger interconnection; and some spillage of wind and PV. That is the basic message I have. If you want cheap electricity you push renewables as hard as you can.”

    It seems to me that Clive Palmer may be the one finding out the hard way.

  7. Are renewables unreliable? Per Professor Andrew Blakers’ testimony, see:

    On page 53 of the 21 Feb 2018 public hearing transcript:

    The Hon. Paul Green (Committee Chair) asks:
    “In the illustrations that we have seen of base-load power, one of the arguments has been that wind is unreliable, even if there is some mapping. The argument is that wind is unreliable, as are solar panels, which rely on sunshine. Professor Blakers, do you want to make a comment on that?”

    Professor BLAKERS:
    “That is simply wrong. There is a well-recognised path to a highly reliable renewable energy system. The path comprises of three components. The first is storage. The market leader in storage is far and away pumped hydro, and New South Wales has a wealth of pumped hydro. Batteries are coming and they will make a major contribution. Demand management is also a form of storage in the sense that if the demand is trimmed it is the same as having storage. That is the storage side of things.

    The second component is that as we push up into the 50 per cent to 100 per cent renewables range strong interstate connections are needed, because if more than a million square kilometres from Townsville to South Australia to Tasmania are interconnected, then it is highly unlikely that there will be no wind or sun anywhere over a 24-hour period.

    The third component is to build approximately 10 per cent to 15 per cent more PV and wind than needed and spill a small amount. The cost of storage plus additional high-voltage interconnectors plus spillage turns out to be approximately $25 per megawatt hour, compared to the current wholesale price of electricity, which is up around $80 or $90 a megawatt hour. Adding in $50 per megawatt hour for the actual generation pushes the total price up to $75 for an all-in, highly stable renewable energy system, compared to $80 or $90, which is the current wholesale price. It will be more, not less stable.”

    Do we ignore the experts that study these energy generator technologies and model the energy supply and demand scenarios because we think we know better? I think that would be a recipe for more expensive and more unreliable electricity in future.

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