Unpublished Letter to the Age
Thanks for your front page headline today outlining the true cost of brown coal operations and the cost of rehabilitating the Hazelwood mine and power station (Age 20.1). However your article made no mention of possible savings off this rather exorbitant bill by adopting solutions that make use of the Latrobe Valley and the Hazelwood mine infrastructure.
Elsewhere the Hazelwood owner Engie has been advertising for expressions of interest for the development of large scale solar pv stations. They could start with one of the proposals to line the Hazelwood pit walls with solar cells and other appropriate localities in the district.
Instead of filling the open cut with expensive water from the Morwell River they might prefer to examine the opportunities for a pumped hydro plant exploiting the height difference between the pit bottom and the Hazelwood pondage (or some other nearby source) as suggested by the University of Melbourne Energy Institute.
They may also prefer to spend some of the funds saved from shelving their lake proposal on creating a pilot geothermal plant exploiting the warm rocks beneath the blanket of coal such as was proposed by the defeated ALP candidate for Morwell in the 2010 State Election.
Finally the power station should be left as is, with minimal disturbance, saving some $300 million at least. Perhaps it could be used to house flywheels to help balance the power load as renewable energy moves towards 100% of our power supply. Another suggestion is that it becomes a museum to the Age of Brown Coal – one that drove the state’s economy for a century but is now an albatross around our necks.
All this requires foresight, co-operation, agreement and certain amount of dedication between the interested parties – Engie, the State government, the Union and the local community. We can only hope that common sense prevails and that a ‘just transition’ occurs in the valley over the next 20 years.