A plan to establish 105 diesel generators on the outskirts of Morwell at the former Energy Brix site looks set to go ahead after clearing two major regulatory hurdles.
On Thursday evening, Latrobe City revealed Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne had intervened to give planning approval, removing the need for council to sign off on the project.
The Environment Protection Authority announced on Friday it had approved an application from contractor Aggreko to establish the emergency power supply to bolster the state’s electricity supplies during the summer.
The Australian Electricity Market Operator has contracted Aggreko to set up the generators to provide up to 110 megawatts of electricity to cover potential electricity shortfalls during the summer.
“If the generators are required they are likely to be only necessary for a few hours at a time, up to a cumulative maximum of 20 hours over the summer period,” the EPA said in a statement published on its website.
“The approval is valid until 31 March 2018 and is subject to conditions set by EPA including a condition in the approval that the company must conduct air quality monitoring when generators are operating and make this information publicly available in a timely manner.”
A spokesman for Mr Wynne said the minister had intervened “to ensure the facility would be operating by AEMO’s deadline – a deadline the local council would have been unable to meet”.
The approvals come as community members expressed disappointment at a last-minute consultation session held in Morwell on Wednesday night at which the project was officially unveiled.
Held at the Morwell Bowling Club, the consultation session was hastily added to the end of a previously-scheduled information session about HRL’s plans to establish an asbestos dump at the Energy Brix site.
Morwell Neighbourhood House manager Tracie Lund said she did not become aware Aggreko was consulting about the diesel generator proposal until about 3pm Wednesday.
“It was really disappointing that it was left until the last minute with no real notice for the community,” Ms Lund said.
She said since word of the proposal began to spread, Morwell residents had expressed concerns about possible emissions from the site, which is situated near the Power Works museum, potential pollution and costs.
“How does this fit into a [the fact the Latrobe Valley is a] Health Innovation Zone? It doesn’t seem like it’s in line with the health of our community being a priority,” Ms Lund said.
The Latrobe Valley became Australia’s first Health Innovation Zone following the recommendations made by the reopened Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry.
Advance Morwell president John Guy said he was made aware Aggreko was going to speak about the proposal at the consultation session.
But he said despite Morwell residents being “consulted to exhaustion” in recent years, there was still a need to talk further about the proposal.
“I think it could have been done a lot of better in terms of having a separate consultation about that matter rather tacking it onto something else and also to give people an opportunity before it was a fait accompli, which it now looks like because the planning minister has taken over,” Mr Guy said.
The Express attempted to contact Aggreko for comment about how the consultation session was planned and whether there were plans to consult further with the community, but did not receive a response before the paper went to print.
A spokesman for the Australian Energy Market Operator, which has contracted Aggreko to install the generators, referred The Express to Aggreko.
The Express understands HRL, which manages the Energy Brix site, was not involved in the decision to hold the last-minute consultation session on Wednesday.
HRL general manager EBAC remediation Barry Dungey said anyone with concerns about the consultation should contact AEMO.
– additional reporting Bryce Eishold