‘Hurry up and deliver’

National environmental groups will converge in Canberra tomorrow in a bid to pressure the Federal Government to “deliver” on a program which could see Latrobe Valley brown coal power stations close.

Speaking with The Express in the lead-up to tomorrow’s expected media conference and meetings in Canberra, Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham said green groups would urge the Federal Government to “hurry up and deliver” on its pledge to remove 2000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity from the system by 2020. 

Three Latrobe Valley generators entered negotiations with the government as part of its ‘contracts for closure’ program.

It is understood national groups are stepping up their campaign amid fears the program could be abandoned.

A deadline for an announcement on potential closures has been extended indefinitely and industry observers have claimed they could prove too costly to implement.

Mr Wakeham attributed speculation about the program’s future to “uncertainty about the floor price on carbon”, something he hoped would be resolved in Federal Parliament by this week.

In recent weeks the Australian Greens has maintained there will be a three-year floor price on carbon when the tax transitions to an emissions trading scheme in 2015, despite numerous reports the Federal Government was looking to scrap this as well.

A carbon floor price is designed to ensure polluters pay a minimum amount of money for the “right to pollute” – it has been opposed by energy industry groups. 

Some industry experts have tipped the carbon price could fall from the current $23 per tonne to $6 per tonne without government intervention – the price directly affects the value power generators will place on their own assets and the asking price they would demand for a compensated closure under the contracts program.

During a recent visit to the Latrobe Valley, Federal Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson conceded negotiations between power generators and the government over possible closures had “been more demanding…working through the ‘value for money’, than we first thought”.

The Federal Government has not confirmed a new date for an announcement on the program’s outcome – initially set for 30 June this year – but The Express believes 30 September is the new deadline.

A floor price of $15, together with the contracts for closure undertakings, were key components of the Federal Government’s emissions reductions commitments aimed at securing the political support of the Greens.

Last week Mr Wakeham said a successful conclusion to contracts for closure was vital to achieving the Federal Government’s pledge to reduce Australia’s emissions by five per cent compared with 2000 levels by 2020.