by Phil Evans
Yesterday was a great day in Victoria for two reasons. One, we finally saw one of Victoria’s aging brown coal fired power plants shut down at Anglesea. And two, we saw that communities, when united, are an unstoppable force and that their will will always prevail.
The closing of Anglesea represents a wider trend that is pointing to the end of the era of coal in Australia, and the world. Many individuals and institutions are divesting their money away from fossil fuels. We have seen unprecedented community led civil disobedience campaigns against new coal and gas developments in North West NSW and we hear leading financial institutions saying that investing in coal is just a bad idea.
The closure came off the back of a strong community led campaign in response to Alcoa’s attempts to sell the aging plant. Friends of the Earth campaigner, Leigh Ewbank summed it up well, stating “The Anglesea community’s campaign effectively made this polluting coal plant a stranded asset. Coal operators must be wondering which coal-affected community will be next to revoke the social licence.”
But where to next? One down, four to go! There are still four more aging brown coal dinosaurs in Victoria that need to be retired – with businesses, communities and governments needing to work together to find a way for a just transition in these coal affected areas to new, clean manufacturing and renewable energy job opportunities.
This dinosaur started out life in 1964 and is often touted as the dirtiest coal fired plant in Australia. In 2009, over 500 people descended on the plant calling for it to switch off, and switch on renewables. Since then, the destructive fires of early 2014 have led local group Voices of the Valley to express real concerns about the health impacts of the coal plant and mine’s continued existence in their area.
Yallourn power station started out life with disco and punk in the 1970s. In 2013, Energy Australia locked 75 workers out of the plant without pay for almost 100 days, due to an industrial dispute during which Quit Coal stood in solidarity with the workers. Previously, in 2012, two Quit Coal activists occupied one of the cooling towers for over 30 hours. That year, the adjacent coal mine was shut twice due to flooding events. Yallourn emits 10.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gases every year.
3. Loy Yang A
Already earmarked for closure as part of AGL’s weak commitment to rid itself of coal by 2050, we doubt that this one has the staying power to last that long. This uncertainty does not play well for jobs in the surrounding community. It is time for initiatives, such as Earthworker Cooperative’s solar hot water manufacturing to be expanded into areas such as Traralgon.
4. Loy Yang B
The newest of the plants built in the 80’s, this plant, along with it’s sister plant Loy Yang A, emits 14.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. Back in 2007 activists locked themselves to conveyor belts for several hours at the Loy Yang complex.