US coal miner applauds Turnbull power plan

A major US coal company with mines in Australia says the Turnbull government's new energy policy has put coal power back on the table.

Activists hold a sit-in in front of a COP23 side event.

A Trump administration panel on fossil fuels at the UN climate conference in Bonn has been heckled. (AAP)

Australia's energy policy is a great example to the world, according to the US coal industry.

At a Trump administration panel on fossil fuels - marked by protest and heckling - at the UN climate conference in Bonn, Peabody Energy's head of coal power and emissions technology Holly Krutka applauded Australia for having changed the conversation over coal.

The Turnbull government's national energy guarantee would return balance to energy developments, she said.

It had put high-efficiency coal and carbon capture and storage back in the discussion in Australia, where Peabody has nine mines.

"I think that that is one example of a place where that had fallen off the table as an option and now is back on," Dr Krutka told the audience.

"They're not giving up on their emissions goal but they are going to look at technologies that are affordable and that are reliable and can meet emissions."

The government's new policy requires electricity retailers to buy a portion of power from reliable sources and another portion from generators below an emissions threshold, but needs agreement from the states to make it happen.

Dr Krutka's comments are likely to buoy conservative backbenchers who insisted Malcolm Turnbull come up with something that would encourage coal investment.

Peabody spokesman Vic Svec later told AAP financing and construction for coal power continued substantially around the world.

"We couldn't predict the ultimate direction of new coal plants in Australia but it is clear that fuel choices matter and policies matter," he said.

"It is very healthy to see a true debate on the cost, reliability and benefits of those elements for Australia's consumers."

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said reducing emissions through more efficient thermal generation would be important for all countries to meet the Paris agreement.

"Coal will remain an important part of Australia's energy mix along with gas, hydro, wind and solar in providing an affordable and reliable energy system," he told AAP.

The COP23 event led by President Donald Trump's environment advisor David Banks has attracted a great deal of attention at the climate talks for its theme of how fossil fuels could help the world deal with climate change.

People queued for about two hours to get in amid tight security.

Nevertheless, 15 minutes after it started, the panel was interrupted by nearly 100 singing youth activists.

"We see right through your greed, it's killing all across the world for that coal money and we proudly stand up until you keep it in the ground," went their adaptation of Lee Greenwood's song God Bless the USA.

After they left, the room filled back up again but the new audience, although quieter, was by no means less hostile to the panel's viewpoints.

The final questioner demanded each presenter give a yes or no answer to whether they supported Mr Trump's announcement he would pull the US out of the Paris deal for climate action.

Nuclear company NuScale Power's Lenka Kollar and natural gas developer Tellurian's Amos Hochstein - who worked for the Obama administration - both disagreed with the president.

US Energy Association head Barry Worthington said the deal wasn't needed.

"We're achieving the emissions reductions goals without having the regulatory burden, we're doing it for other reasons," he said, citing pressure from investors, customers and employees.

Mr Hochstein thanked those who stayed to hear them out.

"If we really care about climate change then we have to stop siloing ourselves into communities where we talk to ourselves," he said.

4 min read
Published 14 November 2017 at 11:34am
Source: AAP