News | 23rd Sep, 2001

Greens push to force out coal

Thursday, 23 September
Adam Morton, The Age

The Victorian Greens want the Environment Protection Authority to use newly beefed-up regulatory powers to force coal-fired power stations to shut without compensation.

The proposal drew criticism from the state government and the Australian Industry Group, which said it was economically irresponsible and could undermine investment certainty.

Released to The Age, the Greens' energy policy lists phasing out the use of brown coal by boosting energy efficiency, renewable energy and direct replacement with cleaner fuels as a key priority.

The policy paper includes goals of cutting emissions to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and zero net emissions by 2050. It does not include a detailed plan for replacing coal.

Greens MP Greg Barber said the government should grant the EPA the right to use powers set out in recent climate change legislation to regulate large emitters of greenhouse gases.

He said the government's plan to negotiate compensation with Hazelwood's owner, International Power, to shut a quarter of the plant by 2014 was not necessary: ''They have known for a long time that we were going to have to reduce emissions.''

Climate Change Minister Gavin Jennings said the power to regulate emissions should be employed only if a national carbon price was not introduced and it was deemed necessary to meet the state target of a 20 per cent cut in emissions by 2020.

He said the Greens had little understanding of what achieving their policies would require. ''As laudable as your aspiration [to cut emissions] may be, if you can't back it up, if you don't know how to get there, what use is it to people?'' he said. ''The Greens are not concerned about sovereign risk … [or] fair dealing,'' Mr Jennings said.

Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham said the policy included strong targets but failed to outline a clear plan to replace Hazelwood in the next term of government.

Australian Industry Group Victorian director Tim Piper said the government had ''created a monster'' by including the EPA powers in its climate bill.