Minister vague on closures

A STALEMATE over costs might prevent any power station closures in the Latrobe Valley under the Federal Government’s ‘contract for closure’ program.

That was the view of Latrobe City Mayor Ed Vermeulen on Friday following evasive comments about the program by Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson.

No announcement has been made on a new deadline for a decision on which power stations would close as part of the government’s attempts to remove 2000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity from the system by 2020.

Mr Ferguson said he intended to “resolve” the matter “sooner rather than later” and definitely before the end of the year but revealed little about how productive any negotiations had been to date.

“Everyone has negotiated in good faith and the process has gone well but it has been more demanding…working through the ‘value for money’ than we first thought,” he said.

“The process is rather complex, there is lower energy demand in Australia at the moment and that goes to the assets and what the Commonwealth is prepared to pay (to see them close).

“We have special responsibility to get value for money, from the taxpayers point of view.”

When pressed, he said “what I simply say is, it is an independent process, we will work out what’s possible and make an announcement.”

In reference to the 2000 megawatt ‘target’, Mr Ferguson said “we will see what comes out of the process”.

Cr Vermeulen said “I think there are inherent difficulties in the contract for closure (program)… it may well turn out that this process doesn’t go anywhere really”.