Greens propose shutting down all Victorian coal-fired power plants by 2030
Exclusive: New bill also increases the state’s legislated renewable energy target to 100% by decade’s end
If passed, the bill will bring forward the closure of the Loy Yang coal-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley east of Melbourne. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP
Victoria’s three remaining coal-fired power plants would be progressively shut down over the next eight years, under a Greens bill to be introduced to parliament this week.
The Energy Legislation Amendment (Transition from Coal) Bill 2022, is the Greens final piece of legislation to be debated before the state goes to the polls in November, and is set to form a central pillar of the party’s climate policy.
The bill sets out a timeline for the closure of the three brown coal-fired thermal power stations in the Latrobe Valley – Loy Yang A and B, and Yallourn – which together generate about 70% of the state’s electricity.
EnergyAustralia has said its Yallourn power station will close in mid-2028, despite being licensed to operate until 2032, and plans to build a 350-megawatt battery at a nearby gas-fired plant to compensate for the loss.
Alinta Energy’s Loy Yang B is due to close in 2046, while AGL announced earlier this year it was bringing forward the closure for its Loy Yang A plant from 2048 to 2045.
Under the Greens’ plan, Yallourn will close in 2024, Loy Yang A in 2027 and Loy Yang B in 2030.
Until then the stations would be required to introduce clean technologies to monitor for pollutants such as sulphur, mercury and nitrogen.
The Victorian Greens’ climate spokesperson, Tim Read, said the plan would provide certainty to coal workers and the Latrobe Valley community.
“It would be helpful for everybody if there was a planned and realistic end date for each of these stations,” he told Guardian Australia.
“No one believes that the Loy Yang stations will still be going in the 2040s. If you talk to people in the valley, there’s a feeling that yes, closures are coming, they understand that and what they want to see is planning for new enterprises and security for workers who would be affected.”
The bill also increases Victoria’s legislated renewable energy target to 100% by 2030. This is supported by $10bn in new renewable energy generation, storage and grid upgrades between 2023 and 2030.
As part of the Greens broader climate policy, $576m in funding would also be allocated between 2023 and 2035 for the Independent Latrobe Valley Authority to oversee the coal plant closures and the development of new industries, such as offshore wind, clean manufacturing and mine site rehabilitation.
The Greens also propose a job-for-job guarantee for coal workers, expected to cost about $151m over the forward estimates, to help to avoid a repeat of 2017’s Hazelwood power station closure, which shut with less than six months’ notice, affecting hundreds of workers.
When Hazelwood closed, electricity prices also rose by more than 10%. Read said the transition has to be managed carefully to ensure this does not happen again.
To fund their proposal, the Greens will make big banks, property developers and the gambling industry pay more tax and increase royalties on coal and gas corporations before they close.
Simon Bradshaw, the director of research at the Climate Council, said the Greens’ proposal would bring the state in line with other jurisdictions that have already committed to a coal exit by 2030, including Canada, New Zealand and the UK.
“There’s enormous untapped potential in Victoria, especially in offshore wind and new jobs and industries that can be created through clean manufacturing and rehabilitating old coalmine sites,” he said.
“This does, of course, require really good proactive management and consultation with communities and smart investments, particularly into Victorians renewable energy zones but it’s all there for the taking.”
Bradshaw said Victoria’s three coal plants are considered some of the world’s most inefficient.
“Together they emit about as much per year as the entire nation of Sri Lanka, which has 22 million people,” he said. “They’re old, they’re highly polluting and they’re also notoriously unreliable – in 2020 they suffered 30 separate unit failures.”