Valley at heart of renewables precinct plan

The federal government has committed $8.5million towards a developing a 3000 hectare site at Giffard into a Gippsland Renewable Energy Park. file photograph

Michelle Slater

The Latrobe Valley has been earmarked as one of 14 sites to develop a Renewable Energy Industrial Precinct, according to the latest modelling from think tank Beyond Zero Emissions.

BZE head of policy and research Tom Quinn outlined the plan last week at a Parliamentary Inquiry hearing into the Closure of the Hazelwood and Yallourn Power Stations.

A REIP would encourage high-energy intensive industries to link into renewable energy zones being established by the state government.

Mr Quinn said this could include decarbonised food processing through electrification and the use of modern, energy efficient technologies such as heat pumps.

Other sectors could encourage investments in zero-emissions mineral processing or components manufacturing.

Mr Quinn said an REIP could take advantage of the region’s existing advantages such as its transmission, skilled workforce and access to ample offshore wind and the planned Marinus Link.

“The electrification of the food processing industry can also lead to potential flow-on benefits such as the development of a thriving industrial heat pump manufacturing sector,” Mr Quinn said.

“We see there will be huge industrial and job opportunities to meet the demand for clean services that domestic and international customers are demanding.

“It will offer a long-term future as investors are increasingly savvy about the market opportunities in zero carbon projects.”

BZE preliminary modelling had found that a REIP in the Valley could create 2400, with more to be identified upon deeper analysis.

“A diverse economy is a strong economy, this is my message for the Valley, start diversifying as you have the strength,” Mr Quinn said.

Australian Carbon Innovation told the Inquiry committee about the strengths of developing the region’s lignite into low-emissions applications.

ACI chief executive Brian Davey said this included carbon fibre, coal to diesel, graphene or hydrogen used with carbon capture, which would be manufactured in compatibility with climate targets.

Mr Davey said renewables could become part of the energy mix alongside hydrogen.

“Coal doesn’t cause emissions, it’s how you use coal. If you don’t burn it, it won’t cause emissions, even if you use it to make hydrogen with CCS,” Mr Davey said.

“To create this future will not be easy, but ignoring the state’s largest and most valuable natural resource on ideological grounds risks the future prosperity of the region and the state.”

But Mr Davey warned that there was no time to delay in order to transition the region heading into impending coal-fired power station closures.

“The time to commence this investment was four years ago when the decision to shut down Hazelwood was made. The next best time is now,” he said.

“Any significant delay in the implementation of the transition process will see this skill base evaporate and the region will lose one of its key competitive advantages.”