Media Releases | 18th Feb, 2014

Smelter closure highlights need for Victorian clean energy jobs strategy

18 February 2014

Environment Victoria has called on the Napthine Government to develop a clean energy jobs and investment strategy in the wake of Alcoa’s decision to close the Point Henry aluminium smelter and wind back production at Geelong.

Environment Victoria Acting CEO Mark Wakeham said today:

“This is a very tough, if not unexpected, day for workers at Point Henry and for the Geelong region. We offer our commiserations to workers and their families.

“Coming in the wake of announcements by Victoria’s car manufacturers it highlights the rapidly changing nature of Victoria’s economy and the need for political leadership to develop new 21st century industries for places like Geelong.

“As a very large user of electricity, Point Henry’s closure will also have ripple effects across Victoria’s electricity industry. Point Henry has an average demand of 360 MW of electricity, equivalent to ¼ of Hazelwood power station’s output.

“It is highly likely that existing coal-fired generation at Anglesea or at Yallourn or Hazelwood will be mothballed or retired as a result of Alcoa’s decision, despite Alcoa’s stated intent to try and find a buyer for the Anglesea mine and power station.

“Some may attempt to blame the carbon price for Alcoa’s closure. They would be wrong. Alcoa has received free permits for 94.5% of their emissions since the carbon price was introduced – a package worth $1.7 billion over 5 years. Alcoa’s electricity bill has been subsidised by Victorian taxpayers for decades, to the tune of over $100 million every year, and in 2012 Alcoa received a further $40 million assistance package from the federal government.

“The fact is that there is an oversupply globally in aluminium smelting and the industry is increasingly moving to countries with larger smelters and low emissions energy sources. Victoria is the only place in the world where aluminium is being produced with brown coal powered electricity.

“The challenge for the Napthine Government and whoever wins the 2014 state election is to develop a jobs agenda and plan that looks forward to the industries of the future rather than stranding existing jobs and industries through industry policy that ignores the direction the rest of the world is heading.

“The Napthine Government has so far failed this test, pursuing outdated and uneconomic industries through its attempts to develop a brown coal export industry, and shrinking jobs in wind and solar energy and energy efficiency through their anti-environment and anti-jobs policies.

“The rapid loss of manufacturing jobs requires a change in direction and a rethink. Why isn’t Victoria protecting and pursuing jobs in solar water heating in factories in the south-eastern suburbs, or wind tower manufacturing in Portland, instead of attempting to develop new polluting brown coal mines?

“We call on the state government to urgently develop a jobs plan that will protect the environment, create regional jobs and put Victoria at the forefront of the cleantech industries of the 21st century.”

For comment:

Mark Wakeham
Acting CEO
Environment Victoria
DIRECT:   03 9341 8127  MOBILE: 0439 700 501

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