Saturday, July 10, 2010

Brumby considers partial closure of Hazelwood while climate activists urge full phase-out

Friends of the Earth has welcomed the revelation that the Victorian Labor Government is considering closing down a quarter of the capacity of the Hazelwood brown coal-fired power plant, but has maintained a call along with other climate change and environmental groups for a full phase out of the developed world's dirtiest coal fired station replacing capacity with renewable power generation and energy efficiency savings.

Related: Environment Victoria | Climate Action Centre | Switch off Hazelwood |
Call for Gillard to install solar panels on the Lodge

“We will continue to campaign for the political parties to commit to a full phase out of Hazelwood and it's replacement with a mix of energy efficiency and renewable energy within the next term of government” said Friends of the Earth (FoE) campaigns co-ordinator Cam Walker.

The campaign to replace the Hazelwood brown coal fired Power Station in the La Trobe valley by 2012 was launched in May 2010 on the steps of Parliament House.

According to a report in the Age, the Brumby government is considering replacing two of the eight Hazelwood generating units with alternative generating capacity provided by gas and renewable energy.

Cam Walker said “We do not believe we should be investing in gas, instead we should be replacing coal with renewables, the energy source of the future. However, we must acknowledge this significant move. A rapid phase-out of Hazelwood would mark the first roll back of coal as a primary source of energy for our state and be a powerfully symbolic action and lead to considerable reductions in our greenhouse emissions. According to The Age newspaper, it is likely that this will reduce Victoria’s greenhouse emissions by around 3 million tonnes a year”.

Hazelwood Power station, owned by the British listed International Power, was completed in 1964 and was due for closure in 2005, however the Bracks Labor Government extended it's contact till 2031. It provides just under a quarter of the Victoria's electicity and is responsible for 15% of the state’s emissions. International Power also owns several other coal and gas operations in Australia. According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald profit from its Australian business surged 40 per cent to £233 million last year, but the company claims problems in funding capital improvements due to investment uncertainty with regards a price on carbon.

The Federal Government under Julia Gillard has so far indicated there will not be a price on carbon set until 2013 using their current Emissions Trading Scheme - the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) The CPRS has been widely criticised for offering too many concessions to power generators and other carbon intensive industries. "The assistance package under the Government’s proposed carbon trading legislation for emissions intensive industries is a $20 billion waste of taxpayers’ money", said the CEO of the Grattan Institute Professor John Daley in a report on April 22 - Restructuring the Australian Economy to Emit Less Carbon. (See article - Conservationists and scientists angry at Rudd retreat on climate)

According to a report commissioned by Environment Victoria and released in March - Victoria’s Energy Mix 2000-2009 - Victoria's reliance on coal fired electricity has increased in the last decade, with both electricity generation and greenhouse pollution from coal increasing by over 9% since 2000.

International Power has indicated it is open to discussing a phased shutdown of Hazelwood if compensation payments could be agreed with the state and Federal Governments. The first phase of a shutdown is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to International Power.

The State Government is facing an election at the end of 2010 and is under pressure to produce climate action and environmental policies to nullify Greens Party electoral threats in a few inner city electorates.

“If confirmed, a commitment by the government to a rapid staged closure would show vision and leadership and put Victoria ahead of the other states once again on this most pressing of issues. It is impressive given the lack of action by the federal ALP on climate. We urge the Commonwealth to do its share by contributing funds for the buy out.” said Cam Walker. “We would see this as the beginning of a profound shift in the debate, one that marks the start of a rapid and complete transition away from coal and into truly renewable energy sources.”

Community climate action groups and environment NGOs met at the climate action centre on Saturday and were of the unanimous view that keeping three-quarters (12 million tonnes of carbon pollution) of Hazelwood operating indefinitely was totally unacceptable and that the campaign would continue until all of Hazelwood was replaced.

A mass protest to Switch Off Hazelwood, Switch On Renewable Energy has been scheduled on Sunday 10/10/10 as part of an International Day of Climate Action. (Facebook event page)

Sources: