The federal government is talking to the owners of a NSW coal-fired power station about how it can convince them to keep it open beyond its slated closure date.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told parliament on Tuesday he would like AGL to keep the Liddell power station open for at least five years beyond 2022, when the generator would be 50 years old and the company plans to close it.

AGL has said it wants to close all its coal-fired power station by 2050, starting with Liddell in the NSW Hunter Valley.

It is understood the prime minister held talks with AGL chief Andy Vesey on Tuesday, which were described as constructive but only the start.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said Mr Turnbull’s involvement was significant.

“(It’s) a serious signalling of our intent that we will do everything we can to keep sufficient baseload power in the system,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters.

An AGL spokeswoman said the company was committed to closing Liddell in 2022, which was the end of its operating life.

“AGL has provided this advance notice to avoid the volatility created by the sudden exit of other coal-fired power stations,” the spokeswoman said.

“AGL is actively assessing what capacity will be needed post-2022.”

Nationals senator Matt Canavan, who has stood aside as resources minister pending a High Court challenge to his parliamentary eligibility, said it was “great to see AGL has seen the light”.

“They are at least open to staying in coal,” Senator Canavan told Sky News.

“The sensible side of this debate is saying we should be using all of our resources as a country to deliver cheap reliable and more efficient power.”

He said there was a role for the government in planning power generation and putting in place the right settings for investors.

Asked whether he believed Liddell could be used to trial “clean coal” technology, Senator Canavan said: “There’s no technical reason you can’t do that.”


By Paul Osborne