Flat White

Coal isn’t just an energy issue, but also vital to defence

17 June 2021

4:01 PM

17 June 2021

4:01 PM

Australia’s ability to produce unlimited electricity has almost been lost thanks to myopic politicians captured by climate zeitgeist. Our nation’s increasingly unstable electricity grid heads up a list of critical military vulnerabilities that weaken Australia’s defence readiness. The Hunter Valley is a repository with more than 900 years supply of some of the world’s cleanest coal, an energy bulwark against the future. According to the detractors, this stockpile of coal is a “stranded asset”, in spite of the billions of export revenue it raises to fund our enviable lifestyle. This national trove of energy is also the envy of the world. Therein lies a stark warning that Australians’ must heed. 

Protecting this unrealised wealth poses a defence challenge and places Newcastle and the Hunter Valley at the forefront of any potential Indo-Pacific military conflict. But is the Hunter Valley capable of fulfilling our electricity needs in a dire situation? Are we able to deliver sustained baseload electricity and support our manufacturers and food producers who demand electricity? How about our refrigerated supply chains? If we lack baseload electricity as a result of an “unattributable incident”, how do we feed our citizens and ensure traffic light’s function and petrol bowsers pump? Australia has a critical baseload electricity shortfall and we must take decisive action to mitigate this critical defence weakness immediately. For many, the solution is unpalatable: Coal.  

Many still oppose the extended use of coal generation in spite of Hunter Valley Anthracite being inexpensive, New South Wales holds vast reserves at our doorstep, and, it’s relatively clean. That’s a globally competitive advantage that gives Hunter Valley manufacturers a real edge. Unfortunately, if you weigh up the alternatives, it’s obvious only nuclear power can meet our baseload electricity demands. Batteries are just not in the race, handicapped with demand predictions that are impossible for mine producers to meet for decades, if ever. To make things worse, the entire battery chain is an eco-nightmare. Just where will we recycle millions of lithium batteries?  In the same place we send our spent solar cells: landfill?  

Eraring and Vales Point are coming to the end of their viable life-cycle giving us the opportunity to replace both with low emission HELE technology. This will increase electricity scalability and build greater resilience and reliability into our grid for another half-century. Importantly, it will help to harden our entire energy infrastructure. Recent incidents in the USA showed clearly how all facets of commerce can be crippled quickly because of outages. Australia’s critical need for baseload electricity to bolster military defence transcends ideology.  

Australia must urgently address threats to our sovereignty and guarantee that our nation’s lasting freedom is never compromised. The Hunter Valley is well protected with our RAAF warriors based in Williamtown but we must heed the clear warning that there may be turbulent times ahead. Safeguarding our electricity grid is critical to being prepared to face any raised national security concerns, head-on. 

Mike Ryan is a technical copywriter living in the Hunter Valley.

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