Controversial $1.2bn power plant frozen after legal ruling

In Australia, an energy technology firm has frozen development of a contentious A$1.2 billion ($1.23 billion) brown coal gas hybrid power plant after a ruling by a tribunal effectively delayed construction, putting the future of the project in doubt.

HRL, one of a number of companies trying to develop clean coal power plants, said it had frozen design and pre-construction work on a proposed 600 MW plant in the southern state of Victoria, reports Reuters.

It made the decision after a state tribunal ruling last month linked a go-ahead for the project to Australian government efforts to shut down some of the power industry's biggest greenhouse gas emitters under a programme known as "contract for closure".

"As a consequence of the imposition of the condition, there is considerable uncertainty as to the date on which construction of the project could commence, if at all if there is no contracts for closure," HRL said in a statement.

HRL aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions from using brown coal for power generation, but its plant has been criticised by green groups who say emissions would still be higher than more efficient gas-fired power plants. They also favour greater use of renewable energy such as wind and solar.

The firm has won pledged funding of $100m from the Australian government and $50 million from the state government in Victoria, which has the world's second-largest reserves of brown coal. However, the latest delay means it could miss out on the $100 million federal grant.

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