Dateline Pacific | Radio New Zealand | 14 November 2016
A group campaigning against investment in coal in Papua New Guinea says renewable energy sources are a better alternative.
There are signs of a move towards coal-powered energy in PNG with the Mineral Resources department this year directing ten million kina towards exploring the sector.
However, plans for a coal-fired power plant in Lae are yet to meet approval from the Morobe provincial administration or PNG Power.
Chris Lahberger from the Nogat Coal PNG group talked to Johnny Blades about his group’s concerns.
CHRIS LAHBERGER: Firstly, there’s the issue of climate change where the new just keeps getting worse, and Papua New Guinea itself has some of the first refugees in the world from climate change with the Carteret Islanders in Bougainville having to be relocated. So there’s that and also the prospect of building a coal-fired power plant right in downtown Lae. The Lae wharf area is literally seven hundred metres from the Lae CBD. This doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world where you build a coal (plant) right in the middle of an urban area. So we think there’s definitely some health issues there. We’ve seen some good support from the people at the PNG Cancer Foundation. They acknowledge there’s a big risk there if they built coal powered fumes in the middle of Lae.
JOHNNY BLADES: There’s a company or two who have got quite significant interests in looking into this in the Papua basin, in the Gulf and elsewhere right?
CL: Yeah that’s right. There’s really no need for PNG to invest in coal. There are huge resources for renewable energy here. We’re situated in location on the equator where we get very strong trade winds for nine, ten months of the year that would be awesome for wind power. And obviously, we’re close to the equator so there’s massive resources for solar (power); and we have very high mountains and big rivers, so we have hydro resources, some of which have already been tapped but really, we’ve only just scratched the surface of hydro. We could just about provide enough hydro to power the entire country and much of the Australian east coast seaboard as well if we had the right infrastructure in place. So if I hear we need coal for energy, I don’t think that’s right. The only real reason why you’d invest in coal right now would be to make some economic headway out of it, try to turn it into an export market and make some sales in the global coal market. But as we’ve seen on the global coal market, the price is pretty low. A lot of countries now are transitioning away from coal and they’re looking into renewables. So I can see the risk in the future that to invest in coal now you wouldn’t necessarily get the returns that you’d think you’d get.