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A focus on gas

Even from Port Melbourne, the Newport Power Station chimney stands out. The plume shows which way the wind is blowing.

Princes Per foregrounds the Newport Power Station

Newport is a gas fired intermediate load power station. It uses natural gas to generate steam in a boiler which supplies a three-stage steam turbine coupled to a generator to produce up to 510 MW of electrical power.

Newport was planned by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) in the late 1960s as their ageing Newport coal fired plants were reaching the end of their economic life. New coal fired plants in the LaTrobe Valley were coming on stream, as well as abundant supplies of natural gas. The SECV planned for Newport ‘D’, a 1000 MW gas fired peak load power station.

Newport had a number of advantages. There was no need to build expensive transmission lines in this inner urban location. Ready access to sea water meant no fresh water was required.

Legislation enabling the construction of Newport ‘D’ had bipartisan support.

However, from the start, the project encountered strong opposition from locals, conservationists and unions. Legislation to create the Environment Protection Authority in Victoria had only been passed in 1970 and it was yet to fully establish its powers and regulations. An EPA Panel heard wide ranging submissions. As a condition of its approval, the EPA required the chimney to be doubled to 600 feet, rather than the 300 feet proposed by the SECV. The approval was appealed.

Another Panel. appointed in 1977, approved a plant with a capacity of 500 MW, rather than the 1000 MW originally proposed. A sister facility, the Jeeralang Power Station, was built in the La Trobe Valley between 1977 and 1979.

The Newport Power Station finally came into operation in 1981.

Newport Power Station was sold by the Kennett government as part of the privatisation and break up of the SECV.

It was purchased by EnergyAustralia in 2018 but they already had longstanding arrangements in place to buy the power generated there.

EnergyAustralia’s portfolio includes Yallourn in the LaTrobe Valley as well as other generating sites that use hydro-electric, solar energy and wind power. In March 2021 EnergyAustralia announced that it would close Yallourn by 2028. In its Climate Statement, EnergyAustralia undertakes not to build any new coal fired generating plants and to transition out of coal by 2040.

EnergyAustralia is the second highest emitter of Scope 1 emissions after AGL. Scope 1 covers emissions from sources that an organisation owns or controls directly.

In March, the The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) released Gas statement of opportunities for eastern and south-eastern Australia. The statement anticipated that “‘working from home’ arrangements are likely to be maintained throughout the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the system demand profile during winter 2022 will be similar to those observed in 2020 and 2021. AEMO therefore expects the demand profile on high system demand days to continue to pose an increased risk to system security.”

The risk came this week.

This graph from the AEMO website shows how abruptly the demand for gas rose in the very cold days that marked the official start of winter.

source: AEMO

It seems that Newport will continue to have a role to play in our short to medium term energy future as it is able to respond quickly to changing demand.

According to Carl Daley “the earlier retirement of Yallourn will accelerate the opportunity for Newport to run through the ‘dark hours’, that is, beginning from the evening peak through to the morning peak. Energy Australia will want Newport to be ready and re-birthed for these opportunities as they manifest.”

The warm water discharged from the Newport Power Station has created a very popular fishing spot, the ‘Warmies’. Seasonal fish species such as tailor, snapper, flathead, Snook, Australia salmon, mullet, mulloway, bream, Gummy Sharks, trevally and whiting are readily caught there.

And how do you know if the fishing is good? Check the plume from the chimney.


AEMO Gas statement of opportunities for eastern and south-eastern Australia, March 2022

Carl Daley Challenges facing Newport energybyte

EnergyAustralia Climate Statement

Newport Power Station Rail Geelong

Marcus Wong A history of gas fired power generation in Victoria, Waking up in Geelong, June 16, 2020

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