Environment and Sustainability, Freight Rail

Hockridge in war of words with green group

Aurizon, Lance Hockridge - Photo Aurizon

Aurizon boss Lance Hockridge has drawn criticism from sustainable energy group IEEFA after he suggested Australia’s coal exports to India were poised to grow significantly.

Hockridge spoke at an Australia India Institute event in Melbourne last week.

“Over coming years, India looks set to cement an even stronger position as one of Australia’s major coal export markets,” he said.

“The growth of both the steel and energy sector is India … on Australia’s high quality and abundant coal reserves … flows through the supply chain to Australian miners, and rail and port infrastructure providers.”

Hockridge cited statistical evidence from the International Energy Agency and the World Bank which he said “re-affirmed [his] confidence in India’s future economic growth, and most tellingly, counter-balances some of the uninformed and indeed blatantly biased commentary on coal that’s become commonplace.”

IEEFA took issue with these comments, pointing to the recent announcement from India’s government that coal imports last month were down 5% on October last year, and represented the fourth consecutive month of decline.

“In making this oddly optimistic pitch, Hockridge tars what he calls ‘uninformed and indeed blatantly biased commentary’,” IEEFA said on Monday.

“He’s talking about research we’ve done here at IEEFA … and work by Carbon Tracker, two of the few independent organisations to publish regularly on Indian energy markets other than industry cheerleaders Wood Mackenzie and the International Energy Agency.”

It is important to note that on its website, IEEFA says its mission “is to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy and to reduce dependence on coal and other non-renewable energy resources”.

Carbon Tracker describes itself as a “financial think tank aimed at enabling a climate secure global energy market by aligning capital market actions with climate reality”.

IEEFA criticised Hockridge’s assertion that there is a pipeline of power plants under construction in India equating to roughly 84 gigawatts of energy, which will require an additional 250 million tonnes of coal per annum.

“[Hockridge] forgets that [Indian] energy minister Piyush Goyal announced two weeks ago intentions to cease all such construction because of a looming capacity glut in the country’s coal-fired power sector,” IEEFA contends.

“Massive losses are being tallied at coal-fired plants all across India today, a problem that has been worsening for three years at least and one that does not support further build-out.”