No news as deadline looms

THE Latrobe Valley is unlikely to learn the fate of several local power stations within the week, despite a 30 June deadline looming for the Federal Government’s ‘contracts for closure’ announcement.

Speculation has mounted from industry insiders over past weeks that protracted and unproductive negotiations between power generators and the government meant a delayed announcement was inevitable and last week the government was evasive on the deadline.

The contracts for closure program seeks to close around 2000 megawatts of coal-fired power generation in Australia by 2020, subject to negotiations with eligible generators.

Locally those generators are Energy Brix (HRL), the Hazelwood Power Station and Yallourn Power Station.

In parliament last week Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester asked Federal Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Minister Greg Combet to deny suggestions the contract for closure announcement deadline would be extended, but the Minister did not.

Although Mr Combet continued to maintain the 30 June date, “which of course is imminent…remains our policy position”, a spokesperson for Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson was noncommittal when later asked by The Express to confirm the original deadline.

The spokesperson would say only “there are complex negotiations underway as part of the contract for closure program which will take time to work through”.

“Importantly, the government’s preference for any closure is beyond the period 2016.”

Debate has ensued in past weeks between Mr Chester and the government about the lack of guidelines for a Federal Government $200 million compensation package for regions set to be most affected by the carbon tax.

In parliament Mr Chester asked the government if it would identify affected regions “given that the government so far has refused to fund even a socioeconomic analysis of the Latrobe Valley to assess what the impacts of the carbon tax or a contract for closure would be.”

Mr Combet said the government was “acutely conscious of the circumstances that the Latrobe Valley, and in particular the brown coal generation sector find themselves in” and “I can assure…that I am as concerned as anyone else to ensure the well being of that community”.

He said contract for closure discussions were commercial-in-confidence and while he would not “speculate on the outcome..the process that we initiated should appropriately be continued and a conclusion reached”.