Latrobe Valley Renewable Energy Zone


For several years I have been pushing for a ‘just transition’ in the Latrobe Valley. This involves creating new jobs in the community to compensate for the closure of the power stations and mines. To assist this process I have suggested that over full employment is necessary. Recently I have been spelling out one obvious way to achieve this – by creating a renewable energy zone in the Latrobe Valley.

I have not been alone in this advocacy, which has been carried on by others including Wendy Farmer and the Voices of the Valley team and by the Latrobe Valley Community Energy Hub. In April this year the latter organisation published a detailed paper on the subject called “Planning a Transition” by Chris Barfoot.

Amongst other things, Barfoot’s comprehensive paper emphasizes the advantage of the grid connection, and looks at various solar, floating solar, offshore wind and Thomson Dam pumped hydro proposals. He examines a number of other interesting energy possibilities including exploiting geothermal energy under the coal and recycling and reusing solar panels*. As an engineer and energy insider, Barfoot looks at the various means of achieving the ‘just transition’ as seamlessly as possible.

Chris and I have come to the task of a ‘just transition’ from opposite positions. He has spent most of his life working in the Valley power industry and recognised that change is needed, whilst I have been a renewable energy fan and user most of my life and recognised that this transition is needed as part of a large number of policies required to combat global warming.  

There are a number of differences between our approaches but they all revolve around the matter of urgency – how quickly we must get out of all burning fossil fuels. For instance, Chris includes both Carbon Capture and Storage and the coal to hydrogen project in his transition, both of which I oppose as, to me, they are part of the problem. His timetable for the phase out of generators is also a lot slower than I would hope with the end of Yallourn between 2025-30 and Loy Yangs A & B between 2030-2040 – my preference being for a complete phase-out by 2030 at the latest.

But generally we are in agreement. Chris concludes: “The Latrobe Valley has been a fading force in the power industry for many years however, the adoption of renewables has the potential to open a new chapter…we have the opportunity to make these changes on our terms. We need to embrace it and to start planning for [the just transition] …” I hope to examine Chris’s plan in more detail in a later post.

*also as advocated by John Hermans a contributor to this column