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Live news: Coal-hungry Australia’s biggest power plant to shut early

Australia’s largest coal-fired power station will close seven years earlier than planned, joining a long list of coal plants forced offline by the rapid proliferation of cheap wind and solar on the country’s grid.

The plant’s owner Origin, a utility and gas producer, said the huge 2.88 gigawatt Eraring power plant, situated in the coal-rich Hunter region north of Sydney, was increasingly unable to compete with the “influx of renewables”.

“Australia’s energy market today is very different to the one when Eraring was brought online in the early 1980s,” Origin chief executive Frank Calabria said.

“[The] reality is the economics of coal-fired power stations are being put under increasing, unsustainable pressure by cleaner and lower cost generation, including solar, wind and batteries. ”

Eraring will now close in 2025 rather than 2032. Calabria said Origin would install a grid-scale battery in the plant’s place.

Last week, fellow utility provider AGL announced it was bringing forward the closure of two of its own coal plants. Energy Australia, the third of the big three utilities groups, last year announced it would retire a coal plant five years earlier than planned.

All three companies have seen earnings from coal generation drop in recent years, hit by the double effect of low prices in themselves and the need to keep coal plants running even at times in the day when it is not economic to do so.

Australia depends on coal-fired power for nearly 60 per cent of its electricity, making it one of the highest carbon-emitting nations per capita.

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