‘Beggars at the table’

A STATE minister has warned Latrobe Valley was in danger of becoming “beggars at the table” and forced to rely on coal exported from interstate, if recent energy projections were realised.

In the Latrobe Valley last week, State Energy Minister Michael O’Brien said a recent Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics report projecting brown coal would play no role in Australia’s energy generation by 2049-50 was based on an expected high carbon price and presented “a real danger” for the Valley. The report’s claim Victoria might need to import coal from other states within coming decades for its own electricity needs posed a warning “of what will happen if the carbon tax remains in place and taxes brown coal out of the equation,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Victoria is currently an exporter of energy… the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland, we are the energy hub of the country, but if you take brown coal out of the equation we become beggars at the table, we become dependent on other states to produce our electricity and we don’t want to see that happen… “

Mr O’Brien said the State Government was intent on emissions reduction strategies for the brown coal industry but the carbon tax was “designed to make brown coal uncompetitive”.

“The danger is that if the carbon tax remains the Valley will suffer and that’s why we want to see it removed,” he said.

“We want to see brown coal used with better environmental outcomes but the answer to just tax it out of existence is one that is very dangerous to the Latrobe Valley and very dangerous to our security of supply.”

The BREE report, which released Australian Energy Projections last month, projected the death of brown coal in the mix of electricity generation and consumption within coming decades, including a dramatic decline in its role by 2034-35 compared with previous predictions for that period, released just one year ago.

According to the report, the impact of lower cost renewable generation and carbon pricing is expected to lead to a dramatic decline in coal-fired generation – from 60 per cent in 2012-13 to 13 per cent in 2049-50.

Even the 13 per cent figure, however, related solely to black coal – mined in other states – and brown coal’s role was predicted to drop to “zero”. In contrast, there were predictions black coal’s production would grow .