“Hazelwood is one of the dirtiest power stations in the developed world and an international symbol of Australia’s polluting past,” said Mr Wakeham. “The first unit at Hazelwood was closed around 2.30am this morning. As further turbines are turned off, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and harmful air pollution will drop significantly immediately.”
The 53-year-old power station will be permanently retired and the process of decommissioning commenced by the end of the week. Hazelwood is responsible for around 16 million tonnes of climate pollution a year.
Mr Wakeham said Hazelwood had also become a symbol of Australia’s fraught and inconsistent response to climate change.
“Everyone has known for years that Hazelwood is past its use-by date and must be retired as a priority in any serious plan to tackle climate change, but successive governments have lacked the leadership or political will to make that happen.”
“Hazelwood’s retirement this week, despite the lack of a coherent climate and energy policy federally, shows global markets have already shifted and coal-burning power stations will continue to close,” said Mr Wakeham.
Hazelwood is the ninth, and largest, coal-burning power station to close in Australia in the last five years. On average across these nine power stations, workers and communities have had less than four months notice from announcement to closure.
“These closure decisions have been made in corporate headquarters in Paris and Tokyo while our government in Canberra has been asleep at the wheel. Workers and communities have been left scrambling to deal with the consequences of federal inaction,” said Mr Wakeham.
Despite the lack of a national plan for closing coal power stations and adequate support for affected communities, Mr Wakeham said he was optimistic Hazelwood’s closure could be a turning point for the Latrobe Valley and climate policy in Australia.
“Since Hazelwood’s closure was announced in November many of the critical elements of a successful transition plan have been put in place in the Latrobe Valley,” said Mr Wakeham.
“Around 150 Hazelwood workers will be redeployed to AGL’s Loy Yang A power station in the Valley. Another 250 will stay on site at Hazelwood and assist with decommissioning the power station and rehabilitating the mine.
“The Victorian government has demonstrated its commitment to the region with $270 million in funding for economic diversification, and the federal government has contributed a much smaller amount of $40 million.
“While there will be some hard days and months ahead for workers and communities in the Latrobe Valley, we’re hopeful that we will be able to look back on Hazelwood’s closure as a successful example of economic transition.
“We hope Hazelwood’s closure can be the turning point when Australia started to manage the shift to clean energy more actively and carefully,” said Mr Wakeham.
Environment Victoria will continue to work with the Latrobe Valley community to ensure that the rehabilitation of the Hazelwood mine and power station leaves a positive legacy for the region, and that government investment in the region delivers much-needed economic diversification.
“But we desperately need a national plan to manage the closure of the remaining 20 coal-burning power stations in Australia in an orderly and planned way that looks after affected workers and communities. A Senate Inquiry due to report this week should provide a clear agenda for the federal government’s role in phasing out coal-fired power stations,” said Mr Wakeham.
“It’s only a matter of time before other outdated power stations in the region like Yallourn are also retired. We need to view the closure of Hazelwood as just the beginning of the transition from coal to clean energy, and build a strong, diverse regional economy that is not dependent on coal.”
Environment Victoria has published a comprehensive media backgrounder on Hazelwood’s closure, available here.