Council ‘ready to act now’ on new power station

Latrobe City Council has resolved to take the lead in advocating for construction of a new base-load power station in the Valley.

A motion by deputy mayor Dale Harriman gained majority support at Tuesday night’s meeting, with council now expected to call on the State Government to “facilitate” the station’s construction.

Cr Harrriman told the meeting his motion was about both power generation and jobs.

“We know that Hazelwood will close between 2025 and 2030. We know because industry experts have told us it will take 10 to 13 years to build a replacement,” Cr Harriman said.

“That means we have to act now, whatever the best sort of power station may be, we need to start planning to build a base-load power station now.”

Cr Harriman reiterated he was not necessarily calling for a coal-fired power station.

“If we can come up with one that runs on goat’s milk, cheaper, more efficiently and lower CO2 outputs, I would be quite happy to turn my backyard into a goat farm,” he said.

“This is about getting government to put it in writing. This is about getting the government and the opposition to stand up and say we have a power station that has a limited lifespan left.”

The motion drew opposition from one of the nine councillors, Cr Christine Sindt.

“At this stage let’s look after our community and look after the health aspects of our community before we start rushing to build a new base-load power station,” she said.

“We don’t need it and the coal companies don’t want it.”

Council will now write to Premier Denis Napthine and opposition leader Daniel Andrews asking them to publicly state their position on a new power station and detail their plans to achieve operation to meet future market demand.

State Energy and Resources Minister and Member for Morwell Russell Northe said while the Australian Energy Market Operator had confirmed the demand for energy was declining, it was imperative Victoria had security of supply to meet peak demand.

“It is therefore important that Victoria maintains a mix of electricity generating sources from coal, gas and renewables,” Mr Northe said.

“The Victorian Coalition Government will continue to support the generation of affordable and reliable energy resources in the Latrobe Valley and across the state.”

Council will also call on the Federal Government to clarify its position on its ‘direct action plan’ funding and how it related to the Valley and would engage a “specialist public affairs resource” to keep pressure on politicians.

It will approach key power industry stakeholders to seek in-principle support for a new power station, along with neighbouring councils Wellington and Baw Baw shires.

Environmentalist says council needs to ‘get over major projects idea’

Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham says the Latrobe Valley needs a more diversified economic strategy, rather than “putting all its eggs in one basket”.

He labelled council’s successful motion to call on the State Government to facilitate construction of a base-load power station in the region as a “conversation divorced from reality”. “I don’t think the Latrobe Valley should be hitching its investment wagon to new base-load stations of any type, coal gas or renewable,” Mr Wakeham told The Express.

“It needs a more diversified economic strategy. There wouldn’t be a single investor who would want to build a base-load power station in the Valley.”

Mr Wakeham said according to AGL, there was an extra nine gigawatts in the national electricity market and with non-base-load energy coming online, including renewable projects, there was an excess supply of power.

He said Latrobe City needed to “get over the major projects idea” and develop a patchwork economy.

“The one area where there will be many jobs in the Latrobe Valley is properly rehabilitating the mine site,” he said.

“That’s work that can start now. I think there’s a real role for the council to fast-track that process to minimise risk to coal faces and create jobs and investment.”

Union wants more than just planning

Gippsland Trades and Labour Council assistant secretary Steve Dodd said he wanted to see energy projects in the Latrobe Valley move beyond the planning stage and he supported construction of a new base-load power station in the region.

However, he acknowledged there was not currently a great need for one.

“In true terms, there’s plenty of power around now ’cause we haven’t got Alcoa and Ford and Toyota, but there is no doubt there needs to be a new base-load power station using new technology,” Mr Dodd said.

“We keep hearing these stories about all the so-called projects: fertiliser, magnesium, the last one was HRL (dual gas plant) and the only thing that I seem to see happen is that consultants get involved, the spend millions of dollars on feasibility studies and tell us it can’t be done.”

Mr Dodd said he would prefer the station to be coal-fired using modern technology.

“We’ve got a highly skilled workforce and we’ve got all the infrastructure here, we’re ideally located for something to be built in this region.”