OPINION

Yallourn power plant closure: let's find a way forward for coal-reliant communities

The Yallourn power station in the Latrobe Valley is being shut four years earlier than expected. Picture: Shutterstock
The Yallourn power station in the Latrobe Valley is being shut four years earlier than expected. Picture: Shutterstock

As many of us in Victoria's Latrobe Valley have been expecting, EnergyAustralia last week announced that it will be closing the Yallourn coal-fired power plant in 2028, four years earlier than scheduled.

With the cost-effectiveness of coal-fired power plummeting as more renewable energy comes online, the company said it needs to bring the closure forward.

As with any power station closure, like Hazelwood in 2017, the community and the workforce at Yallourn are left wondering what comes next.

These are people just like me, men and women who have worked for decades to power Australia while earning an income to support their families and communities.

I've worked in the coal industry for more than 40 years, and I can tell you I have seen the energy transition gathering pace.

It's time for the federal government to stop denying the obvious - coal and gas power is becoming financially unviable.

This undeniable fact was also behind AGL's plan to close the Liddell coal-fired power plant in NSW's Hunter Valley earlier than planned in 2023. It was a commercial business decision.

The seven years' notice EnergyAustralia has given presents a huge opportunity to find a new long-term direction for the Latrobe Valley, and provides another warning for other coal-reliant areas around Australia.

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Governments need to seize this opportunity and support renewable energy projects, including the building of more energy storage systems like batteries, and exciting new industries such as renewable hydrogen. This will throw a lifeline to struggling regional areas and finally give us the direction we need to move beyond the fossil fuel industry.

I'm hoping the new big battery EnergyAustralia is planning to build in the Latrobe Valley will lead to new jobs for the workers who are soon to be made redundant.

The battery will open potential for more renewable energy to come into the system.

The Latrobe Valley is perfectly placed with a good existing connection to the electricity grid. This also makes it an ideal location for large-scale manufacturing.

The timing could also align with the huge Star of the South offshore wind farm coming online just off the Gippsland coast, and the Marinus Link project - which will strengthen the electrical connection between Victoria and Tasmania.

Many of the workers in the power sector have the skills to transfer into renewable energy - we just need training and guidance.

Most of all, we need honesty and direction from federal and state governments.

  • Tony Wolfe is a unit controller at the Loy Yang power station in Victoria's Latrobe Valley.
This story It's time for governments to be honest and support coal workers first appeared on The Canberra Times.