Latrobe Valley, home to Victoria’s four coal-based power stations, is currently undergoing an economic transition.
In the Valley the coal industry has a turbulent history, with the industry’s privatisation in the 80’s and 90’s gutting the local economy, and the Hazelwood mine fire in 2014 causing deaths in the community from the toxic smoke. However the mines and power stations also provide crucial employment and income for the area.
With renewable energy and battery storage becoming increasingly competitive, the need to reduce the CO2 emissions which are causing dangerous climate change becoming increasingly urgent, as well as the risk of multinational mine owners suddenly walking away from assets that become unprofitable, Latrobe Valley is put in a very difficult position. Without other sources of employment or income the inevitable closure of the mines could deal a fatal blow to the economy, with the community as collateral damage.
Because of this, the Latrobe Valley economy needs to undergo a just transition.
A just transition is where an economy undergoes a controlled change to a new economic model, with an emphasis on the new model being fair and sustainable.
Transition in Latrobe Valley will include the community, the economy, as well as industry and technologies.
Latrobe Valley is in a prime position for renewable technology and storage manufacturing and renewable power generation, components of the diversified energy grid of the future. As well as diversifying the range of industries and employers in the Valley, the just transition of this region can use the opportunity of the growing renewable energy industry to create a thriving economy.
The community is already leading the way, and now there needs to be support from the State and Federal Government, and people and companies outside of the Valley.
Australia’s transitioning energy system and climate change are challenges that involve everyone. The people of Melbourne have long benefitted from the electricity that has been produced in the Valley for decades. The community of Latrobe Valley is on the frontline and working hard to enact solutions, and we should all be a part of making these solutions happen.
Support the transition
For ideas on practical ways you can support the transition in the Valley please see here.
Sign our petition calling on the federal government and Engie to help fund the transition here.
For further details or to get involved or support our work, contact Kate Wattchow, FoE community campaigner based in the Latrobe Valley. [email protected]
Our short list of ideas to diversify the Latrobe Valley economy
The Andrews government has already committed $40 million to economic diversification. But we will need a lot more. Our suggestion is for a minimum of $100 million to be allocated in each of the next two state budgets.
Some top order ideas:
- Fund the Earthworker Co-operative’s solar hot water technology factory in the Latrobe Valley
- Fund the Transition Centre proposed by Voices of the Valley
- Rehabilitate the mine pits. This is expected to generate 150 to 200 jobs in the short term. This could take up to a decade and cost at least $300 million. The CFMEU Victoria district mining and energy division secretary Geoff Dyke estimates it would take 10 to 12 years and about 200 workers to rehabilitate the Morwell mine. An independent assessment by American technical services company AECOM at the reopened Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry last year estimated the cost of rehabilitating the Hazelwood mine was $251 million.
- employ existing Hazelwood staff to dismantle the power station (the plant includes substantial amounts of asbestos and will require several years of work)
- Fund the Latrobe Valley geothermal energy investigation to test whether it will be commercially viable
- Upgrade the rail link between Melbourne and the Valley. As coal power starts to close and air quality improves, the Valley can become a growth area for Melbourne once transport links are improved
- Establish a home energy efficiency retrofit program for Gippsland
- Fund commercial building energy efficiency programs
- Support the development of a sustainable prefabricated housing construction
- Move one or more state or federal government department to the Valley
Who's working on transition?
Voices of the Valley – a community group formed during the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire that is working on a transition plan for Latrobe Valley
Website - http://www.votv.org.au/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/groups/VOTV1/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/WendyFarmer_
Latrobe Valley Sustainability Group – an environmental group working on local environmental issues that supports the transition away from coal towards clean and sustainable energy production.
Website - http://www.latrobevalleysg.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/groups/lvsgemail/