A proposal to expand a major polluting coal power station would be an environmental disaster, akin to putting nearly 20 million cars on the road for a year.
Green groups are calling on the Bracks Government to reject the proposal for a five-year expansion to Hazelwood power station in the Latrobe Valley, which would create an extra 85 million tonnes (Mt) of greenhouse pollution.
Victoria was already one of the world’s biggest per capita greenhouse polluters and Hazelwood was Australia’s most intensive greenhouse polluting power station, said the state’s peak conservation body Environment Victoria (EV).
An expansion to the Hazelwood mine up to 2027 would be “totally unacceptable”, said EV global warming campaign director Darren Gladman.
“If the coal expansion goes ahead Victoria would become a world pariah and the Bracks Government would be branded environmental bandits,” said Mr Gladman.
“It would make a mockery of all the precious gains we’ve made and would wipe out any future successes.
“In the interests of reducing this state’s greenhouse gas emissions the best decision the Government could take would be to refuse approval for any expansion of the mine.”
Mr Gladman said the expansion would leave the five-star energy efficiency rating for new houses, which aimed to save 30Mt over 40 years, in tatters.
“Environmental savings made from energy efficiency would be obliterated almost three-times over if the Bracks Government approves the proposal,” he said.
Mr Gladman said an extension would obliterate any environmental savings from the $100 million Victorian Greenhouse Strategy, which aimed to reduce greenhouse pollution by up to 8 million tonnes by 2012.
“An expansion to Hazelwood would blow out Victoria’s Greenhouse Strategy by between 10 and 17 times,” he said.
“The greenhouse savings from the strategy’s measures would be totally overwhelmed by the additional 85 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution that would result from a five year extension to the life of the Hazelwood power station.”
Before privatization the SEC planned to close Hazelwood by 2005.
International Power Hazelwood (IPRH), who owns the power station, is pressuring the State Government to extend its coal mining licence to allow further mining adjacent to its current Morwell site. The coal sought by IRPH will extend the life of the mine by five years until 2027.
Mr Gladman said Hazelwood, running since 1964, relied on outdated technology.
According to the company’s own 2002 Environmental Report, the power station emitted 17.7Mt of CO2 in 2001.
Between 1996 and 2001 Hazelwood’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by more than 56 per cent, and in 1999 it was responsible for about 21 per cent of emissions from Victoria’s energy sector.
While Hazelwood produces more than 20 per cent of the state’s base load electricity Mr Gladman said new, low-emission technologies should be invested in.
He urged the Government to support a five-year moratorium on the extension of brown coal mining licences in Victoria.
“New investments across the state in new, low emission technologies would see the Hazelwood power station become surplus to Victoria’s energy needs by 2009.”
Greenhouse emissions per year on average:
NB: One tonne of carbon dioxide is enough gas to fill an average family home