SYDNEY Australia's resources minister said the government is considering providing public funds for the construction of new "clean coal" power stations in the country's north, The Australian newspaper reported on Saturday.
Matthew Canavan said he was open to using some of the A$5 billion ($3.84 billion) Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF) to help build new high-efficiency coal-fired power plants in the state of Queensland and had already received interest from a number of parties, including from abroad.
"The NAIF is already looking at some renewable energy options in the north and investments in renewables will be an important part of our energy mix," he told a business meeting in the Queensland town of Mackay on Friday.
"But we need base-load power and coal is the obvious option in the north given our high-quality reserves — some of the best in the world."
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has flagged energy security as a primary focus for 2017 and said earlier this week Australia's energy policy should be "technology agnostic".
Australia has invested A$590 million in clean coal technology research and demonstration since 2009, yet the country does not have one high-efficiency low-emissions coal-fired power station, he said.
Coal-fired power plants dominate the country's power sector, making Australia one of the world's biggest carbon emitters on a per capita basis.
Renewable energy has struggled to increase its footprint due to policy uncertainty and scepticism over climate change amongst some the country's leading politicians.
($1 = 1.3016 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Harry Pearl; Editing by Sam Holmes)