News | 12th May, 2011

Hazelwood talks stop

Thursday, 12 May 2011
Nikita Vaz, Latrobe Valley Express

A decision by the State Government to discontinue negotiations on the Brumby Government's proposed early closure of two units of Hazelwood Power Station has fuelled accusations from environmentalists across Victoria.

Energy and Resources Minister Michael O'Brien recently announced the discontinuation over the "uncosted and unfunded proposal to pay for the early closure" as the government was not willing to support "such irresponsible and costly gestures".

Environment Victoria campaign director Mark Wakeham said the move by the state government only portrayed a "government with no leadership abilities".

"It demonstrates the state's Coalition has no plan to reduce green house emissions or shift the state away from its reliance on brown coal. The Baillieu Government seems to be missing in action from an important decision and how we are to look after the valley and the community as a whole," Mr Wakeham said.

Mr O'Brien said Victorians could not be "expected to also fund hundreds of millions of dollars to bring forward the retirement of two units at Hazelwood".

"Without an operational replacement for the electricity generation from these units, the power would have likely have come from electricity imported from other states and generated from black coal – a poor outcome for Victorians and the environment," he said.

But International Power Hazelwood owners say the decision to shut down part of the power plan was not anybody's to make.

"We're a private organisation. It's not their's (the government) to shut down," International Power spokesperson Neil Lawson said.

Opposition Energy spokeswoman Lily D'Ambrosio said Victoria had to prepare for a low carbon future and the decision to keep Hazelwood fully operating was "disgraceful".

"Mr Baillieu must now explain how he will ensure Victoria will meet its target of reducing carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, which was legislated by Labor and backed by the Coalition," Ms D'Ambrosio said.

But Mr O'Brien said the 20 per cent target was "not a legally binding target" but "an aspiration".

"I think it is important for government to have aspirations, that you should aim for the best policy outcomes possible. What we're interested in doing, though, is making sure that the costs of that are going to be fairly spread across the community… so if something isn't a legally binding target then by definition it's something which you aspire to achieve, but there's no mandatory force of law, so that is our position," Mr O'Brien said.