Media Releases | 9th Sep, 2014

Closure of coal-fired power stations is a question of ‘when’ not ‘if' in face of oversupply says Environment Victoria

9 September 2014

Following comments this morning by Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, Environment Victoria is calling for the Federal and Victorian Governments to recommence conversations about timeframes for closure of unnecessary and polluting coal-fired power stations and accelerated rehabilitation of mines.

Minister Macfarlane acknowledged the announcement in August from the Australian Energy Market Operator that the electricity grid is oversupplied with up to 9000 MW of generation capacity, or about “nine big power stations”. Previously the Federal and Victorian Governments had been in discussions about ‘contracts for closure’ of our dirtiest power stations until that program was scrapped by the then Industry Minister Martin Ferguson.

Environment Victoria Safe Climate Campaign Manager Nicholas Aberle said today:

“There is clearly an issue with the electricity market being oversupplied, but the Coalition is acting as though the only solution is to weaken the Renewable Energy Target, even though the RET will lower energy bills and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”

“What the Coalition has failed to consider is that oversupply of the electricity market could be addressed by phasing out large, old, polluting coal-fired power stations, many of which are now surplus to requirements.”

“In the past Governments haven’t wanted to talk about closure because they were worried about the lights going out. We now know that this is not a risk at all. We effectively have massive power stations operating and polluting unnecessarily.”

“In Victoria we now have 2000 MW of excess capacity, which means that controversial and polluting power stations like Anglesea and Hazelwood could both be retired immediately with no impact on energy security.”

“We’ve also seen from events such as the Hazelwood fire and from particulate emission levels from coal power stations that there is a terrible downside to communities from our continued reliance on coal.”

“The only legitimate concern that remains is the loss of local jobs if a power station is decommissioned, but the clear solution is to start a wide-scale effort to rehabilitate operating coal mines across the country.”

“Rehabilitation of coal mines is great for communities: it reduces the risk of fires and decreases the amount of coal dust that comes out of the mines, and it also creates lots of on-going jobs. Communities want less coal dust in their homes, they want to eliminate the risk of mine fires, and they want stable jobs, so rehabilitation of mines is a win-win-win situation.

“It makes sense to require that power station and mine operators spend money on rehabilitation while they remain in business, so that taxpayers are not left holding the bill for future rehabilitation work.”

“With the current state of the electricity market, the closure of coal-fired power stations is a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’. Minister Macfarlane says he wants a ‘meaningful and good-faith’ discussion about the RET. If Governments want to look after communities, they should immediately start having meaningful and good-faith conversations about rehabilitating and ultimately decommissioning these old, polluting power stations.”