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Tough times ahead for power workers and customers

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The prime minister has pledged to work with the Victorian government to support workers in the Latrobe Valley who will lose their jobs when the Hazelwood power station shuts down next March – a move that is expected to put further pressure on power prices.

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“This is a very, very tough time for the valley,” Malcolm Turnbull told reporters today ahead of French owners Engie officially announcing the closure.

The PM said the Federal Government had established a ministerial task group “to provide the support the community needs to ensure there are jobs and opportunities for the workers that will lose their jobs as a result of this power station closing”.

The Federal Government would work with the state Labor government in a “collaborative way”, Turnbull said.

“Our thoughts today are with the tough times for the men and women who work at Hazelwood and of course the many others in that community whose jobs depend on that power station.”

The closure of the brown-coal fired station in March 2017, confirmed by Engie today, is expected to put further upward pressure on power prices in Victoria and in South Australia.

One body celebrating the closure is the Australian Conservation Foundation, which said the Hazelwood station was “the dirtiest power station in Australia and one of the dirtiest in the world”.

ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said the 50-year-old station “pumps out more than 15 million tonnes of climate pollution each year, making that one power plant responsible for nearly 15 per cent of Victoria’s and 3 per cent of Australia’s total climate pollution”.

“This is a key moment in a transition that is already well underway – the switch from dirty energy to clean energy – and Australia’s energy policy is now at a fork in the road,” she said.

“Will the Federal Government continue to back a dying industry that is damaging the climate and making its workers and surrounding communities sick, or will our federal representatives lead a national plan to move Australia to clean energy, attract investment, create jobs and help affected communities through the changes?”

The Victorian government says if the Hazelwood power plant closes it could cause electricity prices to rise.

Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the closure would lead to a rise in electricity prices of about $1 a week.

“It’s a sad fact of reality that in the case of Hazelwood’s possible closure, there will be an impact on electricity prices,” she said.

“While that seems small, we know there are Victorian families already doing it tough.”

The closure is also feared to have a knock-on affect on power prices in South Australia, which takes power from Victoria via an interconnector.

– with AAP

 

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