Power plans shelved

GIPPSLAND Trades and Labour Council secretary John Parker has again called for the re-establishment of the State Electricity Commission after plans for a $1.3 billion gas-fired power station in Yallourn were shelved by EnergyAustralia.

The energy giant cited suppressed wholesale prices and falling demand as catalysts for deferring on the proposed 1000 megawatt Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power station, which would have created about 600 regional jobs in the construction phase.

“It was not financially sustainable to continue through the permitting stage when a new power station may not be necessary until much later this decade,” group executive manager, Energy Markets, Mark Collette said.

“We will continue to monitor the market and if there are significant improvements we will review this decision.”

The plant promised a 70 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases compared with coal-fired stations, and its postponement comes as a worrying sign for Victoria’s energy industry according to Mr Parker.

“I’m quite disappointed in all the power companies, who have proven over the years to be not really looking after the interests of the Victorian energy sector at all,” he said.

“We still have no plan from the State Government on what our electricity for the future will look like… there is no government authority which has a plan for what the major utility in this state should look like.

“If one of these power stations was to break down and close, they have no idea on how in 2020 the power industry would look, which is a major concern.”

EnergyAustralia said the decision would have no bearing on the ongoing operation of Yallourn Power Station, but Mr Parker speculated that the project was linked to the contracts for closure.

“I think this was put forward as a proposal to try and leave the money out of the contracts for closures rather than any genuine attempt to do anything legitimate in the area,” he said.

Mr Parker said that state regulation of the industry was necessary to ensure energy producers stayed in Victoria, rather than seeking cheaper options in New South Wales or South Australia who produce power from the state.

“The problem that we’ve got is that private operators will only operate in cycles for their own business sense, what we need is a government authority to look at what infrastructure is on long term,” he said.

“We have no energy plan for Victoria which means manufacturing will go somewhere else.

“The electricity utility is such a vital utility, yet we have no authority which actually controls it; it’s bizarre… It’s like allowing private enterprise to decide on where your roads are going to run.”

Work on the project began in 2009 when increasing demand highlighted new base load generation would be needed by 2016.