Greens target Yallourn

Michelle Slater

The Victorian Greens are targeting Yallourn as the next coal-fired power station to start closing in 2020 as part of a transition towards 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

The Replace Yallourn campaign includes a timetabled schedule for all Latrobe Valley coal stations to start switching off units in the next few years and be completely decommissioned in the next decade.

The Greens also plan to introduce legislation to stop the government from investing in new fossil fuel projects and will push power stations to include clean technologies for the rest of their operating lives.

Instead, the Greens want to turn the Latrobe Valley into a centre for large scale storage by investing $300 million in a battery three times the size of South Australia’s Tesla battery.

Greens member for Brunswick Tim Read was speaking on behalf of the Greens energy spokeswoman Ellen Sandell who raised the issue several weeks ago at Parliament’s first sitting since the November state election.

“For the Valley to put all its long-term hopes into coal – then it faces disappointment down the track. Coal will go the same way as landlines. We need to prepare for the future,” Mr Read said.

“Our plan is to take charge and take control, invest in renewables and storage in the Latrobe Valley and then replace Yallourn.

“We are not talking about merely closing Yallourn but replacing it, rather than just shutting our eyes and leaving it to the market.”

Mr Read said part of these policies was to return a large part of the energy sector into public hands and push the government to immediately design a worker transition program for Yallourn.

He accused the government of leaving Hazelwood workers in the lurch without a pre-prepared transition scheme in 2017 after ENGIE closed the station at short notice.

He said the Greens had been calling for a transition plan long before Hazelwood was closed.

“We are concerned that what happened to Hazelwood could happen to Yallourn. Private industry could close it without a plan in place,” Mr Read said.

“We believe the government needs to start working on a transition plan for Yallourn within months as {it] will definitely close and the [Victorian] government should be ready.”

Yallourn is slated to close in 2032 and the Greens want to put the clamps on any Latrobe Valley mine licence extensions.

It comes as the state government extended Energy Australia’s licence for the Yallourn mine to 2051 and the AGL licence for Loy Yang to 2065.

It also stipulated that under the extension, Energy Australia and AGL must give a minimum of five years notice of the closure of any power stations.

A Victorian government spokesperson pointed to a policy announcement made before the state election in which it will grow Victoria’s share of renewables to 50 per cent by 2030.

He said it was also in the process of building 4000 megawatts of new renewables which has delivered thousands of jobs for regional Victoria.

“The Labor government established the LVA [Latrobe Valley Authority] to coordinate the government’s commitment of $266 million for the Latrobe Valley community,” he said.