Daniel Andrews to lead Latrobe Valley taskforce as Hazelwood announcement looms

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The Victorian government will attempt to lure new business to the Latrobe Valley and bolster existing ones. Photo: Paul Jones The Hazelwood power station. Photo: Chris Hopkins
Nanjing Night Net

Premier Daniel Andrews will personally oversee a taskforce to bail out the embattled Latrobe Valley amid mounting expectation of an announcement, possible this week, that the Hazelwood coal plant will shut next year.

It is understood unions were told on Thursday that an announcement about Hazelwood’s future was days away.

The Andrews government is working on an economic growth plan for the Latrobe Valley, which it insists will be pursued regardless of the decision made by the owner of the Hazelwood plant and mine.

The government will investigate whether it can offer incentives to bring new businesses to the region and allow existing businesses in the valley to expand.

On Sunday, the company reiterated its long-held position that no decision has been made despite the growing speculation.

But Voices of the Valley spokeswoman Wendy Farmer said she believed the Hazelwood plant majority owner, French energy company Engie, had already decided on a closure date but not told the community.

“They’ve got to do it sooner or later. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s this week,” she said. “It’s disappointing that they’re leaving the community hanging when they already know what they’re going to do.”

She said many employees were expecting an imminent announcement on the plant’s future.

Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the government would ensure the Latrobe Valley had a strong future whatever decision Hazelwood’s owners make.

She insisted the Labor government would not leave workers and families of the valley behind.

“We stood with the valley through the mine fire and we’ll keep standing with the valley through whatever challenges the future holds,” she said.

Last month The Age reported that Hazelwood would shut down as early as April next year.

In recent weeks, both Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas and federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg travelled separately to Paris where they met Engie for high-level talks over Hazelwood’s future.

Mr Frydenberg also met with his French counterpart Segolene Royal.

Unions and community groups in the Latrobe Valley want a staged shutdown for Hazelwood. But orders from WorkSafe that would require new investment are understood to have ruled out that option.

Hazelwood has about 800 permanent staff and contractors, with that number sometimes increasing to about 1000.

Built between 1964 and 1971, the plant provides up to a quarter of Victoria’s electricity when running at full capacity. It is responsible for about 3 per cent of national and 15 per cent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Recent media reports from France have indicated it is unlikely that Engie will find a buyer for the plant. The French government, which owns part of Engie, has also signalled its intention to “disengage” from the Hazelwood plant as it moves away from coal-fired power.

Hazelwood is considered Victoria’s dirtiest power station.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.