One of Australia’s oldest and most polluting coal-fired power stations, Energy Brix in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, is being shut down, the plant’s owner announced on Tuesday.
Just two years after winning, and then losing, $100 million in federal and state government grants to develop a demonstration ‘clean coal’ power plant, HRL Limited says it will cease operations at the 170MW power station near Morwell, and its associated coal briquette plant, next month, leaving 70 of its employees out of a job.
In a statement that suggests the plant’s closure is temporary measure, HRL said it was undertaking a feasibility study to “repower” the briquette factory with a “new steam supply”. Favourable results would lead to reestablishment of the briquette operation servicing new product markets as well as current customers, the company said.
But green groups say the closure was an inevitable outcome for one of Australia’s dirtiest power stations, and the beginning of the end for its kind as power supplies were cleaned up.
“While this is the first coal-fired power station to close Victoria for decades, it won’t be the last,” said Environment Victoria CEO Mark Wakeham.
Wakeham also noted AGL’s recent suggestion that 9000MW of Australia’s current coal-fired generation was no longer needed, and should be withdrawn from the national electricity market. Victoria’s six coal-fired power stations have around 6500MW of combined capacity.
“Victoria and the National Electricity Market are currently flooded with a massive oversupply of inflexible, baseload power generation as electricity use has fallen in recent years.
“With renewable energy and energy efficiency continuing to make inroads we can expect to see further closures of brown coal generation, with Anglesea power station or units at Yallourn or Hazelwood the next most likely to be withdrawn from service,” Wakeham said.
“The decision by HRL to close Energy Brix highlights the lack of a plan for the orderly closure of Victoria’s oldest and dirtiest power stations. Unfortunately with the State and Federal Governments walking away from conversations about planned closure of power stations, communities like the Latrobe Valley are now at the mercy of the market.”
Wakeham also suggested that the state government demand the full rehabilitation of the power station and briquette factory.
“Its critical that HRL doesn’t just walk away from this site and leave the local community with a hazard. One way of securing local jobs in the Valley would be to ensure that both the briquette and power station sites are fully rehabilitated and made good for other uses.”