The Latrobe Valley can create hundreds of jobs, reduce cost-of-living pressures and strengthen its economy through a community-led and government-supported transition process, according to a new report from Environment Victoria.
The report, Life After Coal: Pathways to a Just and Sustainable Transition for the Latrobe Valley, presents case studies of how the region can transition from a focus on coal-fired electricity to a diverse and sustainable regional economy, provided it receives adequate support from the state and federal governments.
It calls for the establishment of a state and federal government funded ‘Latrobe Valley coal closure transition fund’ which could support the transition as Hazelwood and other Latrobe Valley generators close.
Environment Victoria CEO Mark Wakeham said today:
“There’s understandably a lot of concern about the future of the Latrobe Valley economy and community as coal-burning power stations begin to close. With news reports that French company ENGIE will meet this month to decide on Hazelwood’s future, it’s more important than ever for the state and federal governments to help create a more diverse economy in the Latrobe Valley.
“As case studies in the report show, other regions have gone through similar changes and the communities that plan ahead have the most success coping with it. Future jobs in the Valley could be based on skills and services that benefit both people and the environment, but they will need state and federal government investment to get off the ground.
“We urgently need a Latrobe Valley coal closure transition fund that can support transition over the next decade or more.”
The report profiles a successful transition in Rochester in New York where the Kodak headquarters closed, and less successful efforts in Wales following coalmine closures. It finds that transition is more likely to succeed where there is effort to support a diverse range of new industries.
“While supporting new industries, it’s equally important to ensure that the departing industries leave responsibly,” said Mr Wakeham.
“New job opportunities need to be developed, but governments also need a plan for the transition away from coal. A transition plan should reduce the uncertainty about when each generator might close, ensure workers are looked after and make sure mine rehabilitation meets community expectations.
“Mine rehabilitation will be a major employer for years to come provided that companies deliver high quality rehabilitation outcomes. Ensuring that coal miners leave behind a site with no outstanding environmental problems and that can be used for a range of community purposes is a key focus in the Latrobe Valley.”
The report also outlines five case studies of industries that could deliver new jobs and income for the region (some of which draw on efforts being driven by local Latrobe Valley groups):
• A home energy efficiency retrofit program for Gippsland, which could create up to 620 jobs over 10 years and save Gippsland households $58 million dollars on their energy bills, which would likely stay in the local economy
• Commercial building energy efficiency, potentially generating savings of $27.7 million per year for local businesses – which could then be spent elsewhere in the local economy
• A State Energy Transition Centre that could take advantage of the region’s existing electricity infrastructure to create a range of renewable energy, manufacturing and education initiatives
• Sustainable pre-fabricated housing construction on under-used land in Morwell
• Solar water-heating manufacturing, taking advantage of the booming solar hot-water industry to create a local manufacturing hub in Morwell.
Mr Wakeham said the Victorian government had so far contributed $40 million to support the Latrobe Valley transition in the last state budget, but that the federal government had yet to announce any funds for the region in the event of power station closure.
“We really need the state and federal governments to step up, both in terms of setting a clear schedule for the retirement of the Valley’s power stations, but also in terms of providing budgetary support for the region over the next decade.
“Managed well, the inevitable changes that are coming to the Latrobe Valley can be a chance to lay the foundations for a vibrant future for the region,” said Mr Wakeham.
Mark Wakeham, Environment Victoria CEO
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