OREANDA-NEWS. Australian utility and gas group Alinta Energy has brought forward its plans to close its two coal-fired power stations at Port Augusta in South Australia, aiming for 31 March next year from a previous deadline of by March 2018.

The nearby Leigh Creek coal mine will close on 17 November. The closure of the 240MW Playford and 540MW Northern power plants, also known as the Flinders business, comes after both plants have only operated sparingly for the past three years. Playford was largely on a standby basis and only operated when it was economically feasible to switch on. Northern was only available for peak demand in summer during the past three years.

The decision is in response to relatively low wholesale electricity prices as power demand from the electricity grid in east Australia, also known as the National Electricity Market, has weakened because energy efficiency measures and increased use of roof-top solar panels. It also reflects the expansion of renewable energy generation, particularly in South Australia, with the country's renewable energy target of 20pc of power generation to come from renewable sources by 2020. Installed wind generation capacity is more than 30pc of the state's production.

Alinta said in June that it had suffered A$100mn ($72mn) in operating losses on the two power stations over 4? years. The company spent A$200mn on the power stations during the same period to extend their operating life.

About 80pc of Australia's power generation capacity is coal-fired, with such stationary power the largest share of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

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