In a big win for humanity and common sense, the Federal Government has finally withdrawn taxpayer funding from HRL, the proposed new brown coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley. This should hopefully mean that the Baillieu Government will now withdraw its $50 million commitment, and the whole project will be dead.
The deadline for HRL to meet certain milestones was extended 6 times – but thanks to the work of Environment Victoria, Greenpeace, Quit Coal and many other community climate groups, including volunteers from Yarra Climate Action Now, extending the deadline once again beyond 30 June became politically untenable for the Gillard Government. Now the money can be used for something else, something productive rather than destructive.
Due to the immense power of the fossil fuel lobby, our wins can be few and far between, so this is truly one to savour. We hope it marks beginning of the end for all our coal-fired power stations, which must be urgently replaced with renewable energy like solar thermal and wind power.
HRL tried to present their technology as “clean coal”, but luckily, no one in the public bought it (our politicians did of course). There is no such thing as clean coal, and any mention of it is an unnecessary delay of the transition to zero emissions.
How did we do it? With hard work. We organised petitions, doorknocked, held rallies, locked-on in government buildings, challenged the project in court and sent countless emails. The Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA), which shamefully approved the proposal, received over 4000 submissions on the project, the most they had ever received.
1. Quit Coal protesters chain themselves together in the foyer of the Premier’s office while others rally outside on 11 April 2011 – media coverage
2. Quit Coal makes their pledge video
3. Environment Victoria, Doctors for the Environment, Locals into Victoria’s Environment (LIVE) and individual Martin Shields challenge the EPA’s approval of the HRL project in court (the challenge was defeated)
4. Greenpeace Stop HRL video
5. Rally 1 Feb 2012 after the second last “deadline” of 31 December 2011 had passed and HRL had still not met any milestones.
Rally against plans to develop a new coal export industry in Victoria, and the government’s continuing funding of HRL’s proposed new coal power station.
Eleven days ago, eight Quit Coal activists locked together inside Premier Ted Baillieu’s electoral office. The group was calling on the Premier to publicly explain why he deceived Victorians at the last election:
Baillieu promised real action on climate change, while covertly planning a massive brown coal export industry. Figures report
ed in the Herald Sun, suggest that Victoria could be digging up 300 million tonnes of brown coal for export every year; this would triple Victoria’s annual contribution to greenhouse gas pollution! Quit Coal activists filled the Premier’s office with 70 black balloons symbolising the impact of brown coal exports; each balloon represented four million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the annual emissions of one million Victorian cars.
After seven hours locked together in the office, the group of eight decided to leave. Despite sustained media attention, personal phone calls and emails, Baillieu refused to publicly acknowledge these community concerns. Check out coverage from channels 7 and 10 here and Fairfax papers here.
The government is intent on trying to ignore concerned groups and affected rural communities, but we will continue to fight Ted’s dirty plan to turn our state into a brown coal quarry. We think it’s time to ramp up pressure on the state government over it’s plans to expand Victoria’s dirty brown coal industry, so join us to protest against new coal power.
Thursday 28 June 12.30pm
Steps of State Parliament, Spring St, Melbourne
Who: Quit Coal, Friends of the Earth, No New Coal Bacchus Marsh, Greenpeace, and YOU!
The Victorian State Government is currently considering a plan to offer mining licenses for large reserves of brown coal, with the aim of kick-starting a brown coal export industry in Victoria. They are also considering a taxpayer funded public relations campaign, on behalf of the coal companies, to convince Victorians that brown coal is great.
Mining companies are already lining up to bid for the right to dig up billions of tonnes of brown coal, in some of Victoria’s most productive agricultural regions.
This comes on top of the Baillieu Government’s destruction of the wind energy industry and is occurring alongside their destruction of the solar energy industry (they aim to get rid of the solar feed-in tariff for rooftop solar).
Under any reasonable analysis, this plan is indefensible. The only beneficiaries are the coal companies, who happen to donate money to the Liberal and National Parties.
There is a lot of misinformation and corporate propaganda flying around on this issue, so Yarra Climate Action Now wants to clear the air with a few key points:
1. There’s no such thing as “clean coal”.
Brown coal is the dirtiest and most polluting fossil fuel used in Australia. Some of the “new” technologies proposed for treating the brown coal (which the coal lobby deceptively refers to as “clean” or “pristine” coal) will only reduce brown coal’s greenhouse gas emissions to the level of black coal, or at best, fossil gas. This is far from clean and nowhere near the zero emissions status of renewable energy.
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) which is also sometimes referred to as “clean coal” doesn’t exist, and is still only theoretical. Even its most enthusiastic proponents say it will not be ready for at least another 20 years, by which time renewable energy will be far cheaper anyway.
“Clean” coal is nothing but a delay strategy put forward by the coal lobby to slow down the roll-out of renewable energy and ensure they can keep making obscene profits for a little while longer.
2. Baillieu’s plan will increase electricity prices.
Baillieu’s destruction of the wind energy industry already means that Victorians will be paying billions more for our electricity than we otherwise would be. A brown coal export industry will expose Victorians to international pricing for coal, something we are shielded from since brown coal is not currently exported. This will increase domestic coal prices and increase the cost of electricity production in Victoria.
3. Brown coal development will kill jobs.
If you invest your money in one thing, then you don’t have money to invest in another. Money going into brown coal development will reduce the amount of money going into renewable energy technologies. And guess what! Renewable energy is far more jobs-rich than fossil fuel technologies are.
The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan calculated that if we transitioned our whole economy to one that is run by 100% renewable energy, 40,000 permanent jobs would be created, and 20,000 jobs would be lost. That is, for every job lost in the fossil fuel sector, 2 jobs would be created in the renewable energy sector due to its higher labour needs.
If the money going into brown coal was shifted to building renewable energy and establishing a renewable energy components manufacturing industry, then far more jobs would be created, and they would be sustainable for the long term too.
4. Investing in coal is bad for the Victorian economy.
“Premier Ted Baillieu’s plan to expand Victoria’s brown coal sector is a blow to our economic credibility.
“The world is switching to renewable energy and brown coal, the dirtiest, least efficient way to generate energy, will be left for dead.
“China is the biggest coal consumer in the world, but it is planning to cap coal imports in 2015. That is only three years away. Victoria’s new brown coal mines will not even be a hole in the ground by then, let alone a viable export industry.
“India is another big coal customer that is turning to renewable energy, because it is more economically viable. The Indian government put an industry plan in place to bring the cost of solar below the cost of coal, by 2022. A review of this ‘Grid Parity’ by KPMG found that it was likely to be reached five years earlier, by 2017!
“The USA is still the economic powerhouse and it sets the global energy agenda. It also has an industry plan like India’s, which will get solar cheaper than brown coal by 2020. That is only eight years away.”
To summarise – the world is shifting away from coal and we will be left with stranded assets and a product no one wants to buy. We should be putting our money into the energy technologies of the present and future, not the 19th Century.
5. A brown coal export industry is a climate disaster.
The climate science is clear. There is already too much carbon in the atmosphere to prevent catastrophic climate change. We need to get to zero emissions and start removing the excess carbon we have been adding to the atmosphere as quickly as is humanly possible.
Brown coal is currently not exported due to its unstable nature. If left at room temperature it can spontaneously combust, making it too dangerous to transport long distances. If the coal companies get their way and they can develop technologies to make brown coal suitable for export, then more coal will be exported, making coal more accessible to countries currently deciding their energy futures and thereby delaying the urgent and necessary transition to zero-emissions technologies.
6. This brown coal plan will reduce our food security.
Coal mines are planned for Bacchus Marsh and many other areas in Victoria, particularly Gippsland. These are some of the most agriculturally productive regions in Victoria, supplying Melbourne and many other places with fresh fruits, vegetables, grain and dairy products. With the impacts of the climate crisis, including droughts, floods and heatwaves, reducing our ability to produce food globally, the productive land we do have is becoming more and more precious.
No matter what the coal industry says, we can’t eat coal. Food security is more important than the profits of mining companies.
7. We don’t even need coal anyway.
We already have the renewable energy technology to get to 100% renewable energy and replace the baseload power we get from coal and gas. Renewable energy is rapidly dropping in price, and the more we build it, the cheaper it gets. Contrast this to coal and gas prices which are set to become even more volatile and will just keep going up in the long term. We don’t need coal anymore to produce our electricity.
The Greens have already come out and rightly condemned this plan, saying they will fight it. As has the Bass Coast Shire Council (Wonthaggi) and even the state Liberal Member of Parliament for that area, Ken Smith. The Federal Labor Party has continued its usual support of the fossil fuel lobby by saying they will allow a brown coal export industry to be developed, while the State Labor Party maintains an unprincipled silence (we have contacted our two state members of parliament, Bronwyn Pike and Richard Wynne, and await their responses).
To help stop this insane proposal please sign the petition here. If you want to get more actively involved (and unless more people do, then this will go ahead) please contact us or Quit Coal.
Last Friday the Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) gave a works approval to a new coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria. The HRL Dual-gas proposal will create millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide per year if built.
In the 2010 election campaign, Julia Gillard promised that no dirty new coal-fired power stations would ever be built in Australia. Gillard’s credibility is now on the line as the Federal Government continues to pledge $100 million of taxpayer money to the project. The emissions of the HRL plant will be around 0.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of energy generated. This is about the same as a black coal-fired power station and double the OECD average for coal-fired power stations.
Despite the spin from HRL, this is a dirty technology using a dirty fuel that should be left in the ground.
It is great news that all four of the big Australian banks are refusing to finance this project. However, to ensure it is never built, the state and federal governments need to withdraw their funding.
The EPA’s decision was made within the legislative framework that governs it. However, the question needs to be asked, if the EPA cannot say no to a new coal-fired power station, despite the extreme urgency and severity of the climate crisis that we face, then why does it even exist?
Originally published in Arena Magazine. .
John Brumby stands looking upwards into the distance, squinting and baring his nice straight teeth. Behind him is a giant octagonal configuration of mirrors reflecting the sun’s rays against a backdrop of perfect blue sky. They call this greenie porn: pictures of big shiny solutions for the energy dilemmas of our time, like this one taken at a large-scale solar power plant. .
Cashing in on the appeal in this advertisement in an inner-Melbourne local paper we read: ‘John Brumby and Labor – Leading Australia on Climate Change’. There are some dot points about making Victoria the ‘Solar State’, about spending $650 million on climate change and renewable energy programs; $10 billion on unspecified new investment and jobs; a target for emissions cuts of 20 per cent by 2020 on 2000 levels; and a staged closure of Hazelwood power station. Interesting for a state government that has overseen steady increases in greenhouse gas emissions over the eleven years it has held power. .
There is no questioning the motivation here. Following the 2010 federal election (in which Julia Gillard’s strategy on climate policy was to duck and deflect), the large swing to the Greens across the country, and especially in Victoria, resulted in that party gaining the balance of power in the Senate and claiming the lower house seat of Melbourne. Facing an election of his own on 27 November, with four seats at risk of being lost to the Greens, Brumby has made no secret that he has a different strategy in mind. On 26 July, as Abbott and Gillard’s campaigns were already in full swing, he released his Climate Change White Paper. .
This long-awaited statement of Victoria’s climate policy agenda looked fresh: first, because it was in radical contrast with the federal climate change policy vacuum; second, because it actually did reflect a new approach from the Brumby government. Previous drafts focussing almost exclusively on ‘adaptation’ had had to be pulped as carbon prices went on and off the national agenda, and Brumby finally decided emissions reductions could not be left to higher forces. .
Unfortunately, Brumby’s apparent climate policy stance has very little to do with the substance of his policies. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence of politics-as-usual, which continues to fall distressingly short of the task of altering our progress along a path to ecological disaster. It boils down to the question of how we might assess leadership on climate change. If it were a question of relativity we might have reason to congratulate the Brumby government for taking some steps forward. The problem is that they are baby steps, and can be explained more easily by a fear of losing votes to the Greens rather than any real comprehension of climate change science. .
The capacity of politics-as-usual to live up to the task of avoiding dangerous climate change has been questioned before and found wanting. In their 2008 assessment of the dramatic, widening gap between the response that climate science demands and the response actually given, David Spratt and Philip Sutton in Climate Code Red pointed to the short-term, adversarial and incremental mode of politics conventional in Western nations like ours. This mode is ‘steeped in a culture of compromise that is fearful of deep, quick change—which suggests it is incapable of managing the transition [to a safe-climate economy] at the necessary speed’. Nothing has changed, except that is, the amount of evidence in support of this statement. .
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Australian approach to coal, with politics-as-usual meaning a refusal to deviate from the ‘quarry vision’ so aptly described by Guy Pearse in his 2009 Quarterly Essay, Quarry Vision: Coal, Climate Change and the End of the Resources Boom. This is an ingrained mentality—shared by the vast majority of politicians, the business sector and many citizens: that Australia is a nation dependent both for domestic electricity and export income on digging up, shipping out and burning coal. .
While the imperative to break with this mentality could not be stronger, for reasons ranging from the moral to the pragmatic, there is no indication that this is occurring where it matters most. Witness QR National proudly boasting their coal freight activities and asking that Australians invest in the idea that this will continue indefinitely. Witness federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson feigning ignorance when presented with the prospect of the need to draw up transition plans for coal workers. Meanwhile ABARE proudly reports that Australian coal exports reached record levels in the December quarter 2009 and projects that exports will rise by 88 per cent between 2004/2005 and 2029/2030. .
But what of Premier Brumby and his latest advertisements? Should we be grateful that he did not pose next to a big pile of coal and some smokestacks? Unfortunately there is nothing to suggest that Brumby’s own quarry vision is wavering, beyond his apparent recognition that it may not be the best thing to emphasise in an election context. .
A key element of Brumby’s climate policy platform is a commitment to shutting down a quarter of production at Hazelwood—Australia’s most polluting coal-fired power station—over the next four years. Considering it was due to close in 2009 but had its life extended in 2005 by then Labor Premier Steve Bracks for an extra few decades, this is hardly a position worth celebrating. It should have gone completely off-line by now. With Victoria’s potential for baseload solar thermal power it is possible to replace all of Hazelwood’s generating capacity with renewable energy within the same four year timeframe. However as it stands under Brumby’s plan, a quarter of Hazelwood’s current output will probably be replaced with coal power from another source. .
Even worse than this, and certainly not a lead item on Brumby’s climate policy agenda, is the proposal currently waiting for approval from EPA Victoria to build a brand new 600 megawatt coal-fired power station near Morwell in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. The HRL Dual Gas proposal has the support of both the Brumby Government who have committed $50 million and the Commonwealth Government ($100 million). They claim that the use of synthetic gas (from the drying and gasification of brown coal) and natural gas at the new plant will ensure the emissions intensity is lower than any other coal plants operating in Victoria. Again, this is nothing to get excited about. While the HRL Dual Gas plant would indeed help to bring Victoria into line with other coal plants in Australia by producing emissions slightly below the level of a typical black coal power station, the emissions intensity of the plant would still be almost double the OECD average. One wonders why the Brumby Government would make their own target to reduce 20% of emissions by 2020 that much harder by committing to new coal power development that will increase emissions and lock in reliance on coal for years to come. .
Further evidence that the Brumby Government has expansion rather than curtailment in mind for Victoria’s coal industry emerged in September 2009. At that time Victorian Energy Minister Peter Batchelor was reported to be championing a proposal by Australian-based company Exergen, to mine, dry and export 12 million tonnes of brown coal annually to India. Confidential cabinet documents obtained the next month by The Age showed that this was only the tip of the iceberg with the Brumby Government considering a competitive tender process to sell off billions of tonnes of Latrobe Valley brown coal reserves to companies looking to open up new coal export markets overseas. Premier Brumby himself said that given Australia exports oil, gas, black coal and uranium, he saw no reason why Victoria should not export brown coal. Yet, by December 2009 the export deals had been shelved, seemingly because the run in the media and backlash from environment groups had ignited fears of broader voter disapproval. However this has not been ruled out, and one should ask whether the plan to expand coal exports might emerge again after a Labor election victory. .
Premier Brumby may not be all he is cracking himself up to be on climate change, but how much does it matter to Victorian voters? The gamble is that green message will beat the substance, which is probably a safe bet in this age of marketing supremacy. The strategy is clever enough to sway people without the time or inclination to consider the details. .
Brumby’s approach is likely to mean that NGOs, community groups and individuals concerned about climate change will have to work harder than they did during the recent federal election campaign where it was easy to show that Gillard had nothing to offer on climate issues. The task is to build public understanding so that Brumby and others in positions of power can be judged on just how far their policies are really intended to secure a safe climate future. . Taegen Edwards is a member of Yarra Climate Action Now, an independent community group based in the inner Melbourne suburbs of the City of Yarra. She works as a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne.
The Brumby and Gillard Governments are supporting a new coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley, each promising $50 million and $100 million of taxpayer money to support it respectively. Building any new fossil fuel infrastructure is insanity when faced with the climate crisis it is causing, and the viable alternatives we have, like baseload solar. We put forward this short submission to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is currently considering whether to allow the new coal plant to go ahead. . Submission to the EPA – Dual Gas Demonstration Project
EPA Works Approval Application .
Submission from Yarra Climate Action Now (YCAN) .
YCAN is a climate action group based in the inner-suburban City of Yarra. We write to voice our strong opposition to the proposed building of the HRL-Dual Gas power station. .
The project is completely at odds with the stated intent of the Victorian government as outlined in a number of recent documents, including the Victorian Climate Change White Paper. .
On a per capita basis, Victoria produces four times the world average amount of greenhouse gases per annum. The proposed power station will barely meet the Victorian governments limit of 0.8 tonne of CO2e per megawatt hour for new coal fired power plants — a limit which is lax by world standards as the average across the developed world is 0.45 tonne per megawatt hour. The 600MW plant will make it highly unlikely, if not impossible, for Victoria to meet the new 20% emissions reduction limit by the end of this decade. .
Few jobs will be created during the construction process (an estimated 350 jobs), and the project will only create 40 ongoing jobs, very few when compared with the number of jobs that would be created from a similar sized renewable energy development. .
Not only will this project be producing huge amounts of greenhouse gases, it will also be wasting our limited water resources, requiring around 2GL of water a year. The Latrobe River and Gippsland Lakes are already very stressed and in a deteriorating condition. It would be extremely unwise to allow further allocations of water for energy production.
In contrast, a similar-sized renewable energy development would produce no greenhouse gas emissions, consume a negligible amount of water and create more jobs. .
YCAN strongly opposes this project and urges the EPA to refuse the application from HRL – Dual Gas. .
Yours sincerely, .
Yarra Climate Action Now .
There will be a rally this Monday 18 October, 1pm at 1 Treasury Place off Spring St against the new coal proposal. .
We also hope to see everyone at the rally to replace ALL of Hazelwood power station on November 6, 1pm, State Library, corner Swanston and Latrobe streets, City.
Join us to put the heat on our politicians at this state election to Replace ALL of Hazelwood. When: Saturday, 6 November 2010 @ 1pm
Where: State Library, cnr Swanston and Latrobe Streets, Melbourne .
We’ve written letters, letterboxed our streets, door-knocked our neighbourhoods, held community meetings and met with our MPs to get them to act on Hazelwood. But now, in the lead up to Victoria’s state election, we’ve got to take the campaign up a notch. .
So join us on Saturday, 6 November to make sure our politicians get the message – that Victorians want a commitment from all parties before the election to Replace ALL of Hazelwood power station. .
We can repower Victoria with 100% renewable energy. John Brumby is currently offering to replace 25% of Hazelwood with new coal. He tries to spin his way out of trouble by saying Hazelwood will be closed down entirely while not giving a date. Everything will be closed down eventually! This is not good enough. .
We need to see you, your family and friends, your workmates, neighbours, school teachers and even your local green grocer there on 6 November. Because we all want a safe climate future. And real action to replace Hazelwood is just the beginning.
According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the planet has just come through the warmest decade, the warmest 12 months, the warmest six months, and the warmest April, May, and June on record.
Despite this, and despite releasing a white paper with a 20% emissions reduction target (YCAN will be analysing the white paper in more detail after the Federal Election) John Brumby’s Government is still supporting a new coal-fired power station to be built in the Latrobe Valley.
Despite the spin (the company that wants to build the plant, HRL, says that it is clean technology, although it would have the same emissions as a black coal power station) this new power station would increase Victoria’s emissions by 3%, thereby cancelling out the State Government’s policy of closing 25% of Hazelwood Power Station.
Effectively, instead of replacing one quarter of Hazelwood with renewable energy, Brumby’s policy is to replace brown coal with……more coal.
The 600MW HRL plant will receive $150 million of taxpayer money to subsidise its construction if it is to go ahead. It would have 36% less emissions than a conventional brown coal power station, but that is still infinitely more than the zero emissions from baseload solar thermal and wind power – both of which are commercially available now. We would prefer if our money went towards those technologies.
A solar thermal power tower. These are being constructed in the USA and Spain. With heat storage they can replace baseload electricity from coal.
HRL is now working on a plan to submit to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approval. If it can slide under the extremely lax emissions standard of 0.8 tonnes of carbon per megawatt hour of energy produced (average globally for rich nations is 0.45, wind and solar are zero), then it is presumed it will get a tick of approval, unless we can stop it politically.
The message just doesn’t seem to be getting through to the Labor Party. We have to urgently transition out of coal. Building new coal-fired power plants is insanity. We can go to 100% renewable energy if we wanted to.
If John Brumby and his inner-city ministers that are under threat from the Greens want to be taken seriously on climate change, then this new coal plant must be stopped before the State Election in November.
Unfortunately, the Gillard Prime Ministership has gotten off to a very bad start.
Within 24 hours of her swearing in, the Federal Government was signing a deal to export brown coal – the world’s dirtiest, most greenhouse gas intensive fuel – to Vietnam.
The greenwash was coming in thick and fast from the Trade Minister Simon Crean, who said the technology used in this export deal would clean up the brown coal – when in fact it will make it as polluting as black coal – still a disaster in terms of emissions produced.
So far, Victoria has avoided the coal export curse, with all its associated health and environment impacts, which affects NSW and QLD. This deal is a step in the wrong direction. Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter and this makes us one of the biggest pushers of the fossil fuel drug which is causing global warming.
We must stop exporting coal as well as burning it within our own shores. Not only will this help avoid catastrophic climate change, a transition to renewable energy will create more jobs than it destroys and in the medium and long term provide a massive boost to the Australian economy.
Luckily this grubby deal did not go unnoticed. A group of people gathered at the Southbank hotel where the deal was signed, after being given only a few hours notice. The media coverage can be see here – The Age, ABC
It is crucial that the Australian public cuts through the spin coming from the Labor Party and judges Julia Gillard on her policies.