Greens Pushing Harder For Early Closure Of Yallourn Power Station

Yallourn Power Station

Image: Yallourn Power Station | Marcus Wong, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Victorian Greens are using the recommendations of a report on emission reduction targets to back their call for closing Yallourn Power Station early.

Situated in the Latrobe Valley, the brown coal-fired clunker is fed by mines adjacent to the power station and chews through around 18 million tonnes of high moisture brown coal each year. EnergyAustralia says Yallourn supplies 22 per cent of Victoria’s electricity, and about 8 per cent of Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) – so it’s not something you could just suddenly pull the plug on.

But its continued operation is problematic. Given its output and the nature of the coal Yallourn burns, the aging power station is also a big emitter of carbon dioxide and substances harmful to human health – among them mercury, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter.

According to data from Australia’s National Pollutant Inventory, Yallourn Power Station emitted 435kg of mercury in 2017-18 – the highest in the country. Environment Victoria says the power station spews the most climate pollution per unit of energy of any power station in Australia (up to 15 million tonnes each year).

Yesterday, an expert panel headed by Greg Combet1 delivered a report on interim emission targets for Victoria. The Panel’s report will inform the government’s decision on interim targets, which will be made after consultation with the community and stakeholders.

The Panel has recommended:

  • 32-39% below 2005 levels in 2025
  • 45-60% below 2005 levels in 2030

Regarding electricity generation specifically, the report states:

“.. there is potential to cut electricity sector emissions significantly (models indicate by as much as 16-52%) over the decade 2020 to 2030, using commercially available technologies whose costs are falling rapidly.”

Examples of these technologies include solar energy, wind power and various energy storage technologies.

The report’s authors acknowledge this finding will increase concerns over the potential closure of further coal power stations in the Latrobe Valley in the decade ahead.

Enter The Victorian Greens

The Victorian Greens seized on the report, stating even the lower end emission reduction target range would require at least one coal fired electricity generator to close in the next decade – and they have Yallourn Power Station firmly in their crosshairs.

“It is clear from the report that the Yallourn coal power station will have to close within the next ten years,” says a release. “If Dan Andrew’s [sic] doesn’t have a plan for coal, he doesn’t have a plan to address climate change. And without a just transition plan, Victorian communities and workers will pay the price for a government sleepwalking toward the inevitable.”

Under current arrangements, Yallourn Power Station would keep generating until its announced closure in 2032.

The Latrobe Valley Express reports the Greens are wanting a staged shut-down of Yallourn to commence in 2020. The party will be holding a rally on the steps of Parliament on June 18 as part of its campaign to fully close the Yallourn power station within the next 10 years.

The Victorian Greens also state the high end of the recommended targets in the panel’s report falls well short of what is needed.

“To meet the Paris target, we would need a 75-80% target for 2030,” it says.

Solar Investment “Not Enough”

Late last month, the Greens tabled motions in the Victorian Parliament calling for a “climate emergency” to be declared.

“Investment in solar is great, but it’s not enough. Our state can and must rapidly reduce our burning of coal and gas,” said the party’s acting spokesperson on climate change, Tim Read

Side note: The solar energy investment Mr. Read was referring to is the $545 million allocated in Victorian Budget 2019/20 for rolling out the next phase of the state’s very popular Solar Homes Package. The $1.3 billion program will play a significant role in reducing electricity related emissions as it aims to put solar panels on the rooftops on a total of 700,000 Victorian homes over a 10-year period.

The scheme will return to providing subsidies for solar power systems from July 1, but funding will be released in stages – so now is a good time to be researching a solar purchase, checking out installer reviews and getting quotes organised.

Footnotes

  1. Mr. Combet was previously Minister for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation in the Second Gillard Ministry
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Monash University say ” Latrobe Valley women also had higher rates of liver, lung and overall blood cancers prior to the mine fire compared to the rest of rural and regional Victoria, according to the analysis.”
    The sooner it closes the better, Not to mention the amount of coal dust that is all over the houses in the area.

  2. Geoff Miell says

    EnergyAustralia’s Yallourn W brown coal-fired power station was originally commissioned in 1975 with additional generator units commissioned in 1982. Thus, the earliest generator units are now around 44 years old.
    See “Table 2.1 Australia’s operating coal fired power stations” in the Australian Senate Environment and Communications References Committee inquiry into the Retirement of coal fired power stations Final Report, dated Mar 2017.
    https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Environment_and_Communications/Coal_fired_power_stations/Final_Report

    Internationally, only 1% of power stations in operation are older than 50 years.
    See (p1): http://www.tai.org.au/sites/defualt/files/P548%20Timing%20is%20everything%20Liddell.pdf

    At the Australian Senate Retirement of coal fired power stations public hearing in Melbourne on 17 Nov 2016, Senator Larissa Waters (Chair) was examining Mr Mark Collette, Executive Energy, EnergyAustralia (per the official transcript on p18):

    CHAIR: We have had a lot of witnesses say that they think it would be more cost-effective and will hurt consumers less if there is a role for government in managing the transition from our existing polluting sources to cleaner sources. Do you share that view that it would actually be better for consumers from a price perspective—let alone a climate perspective—if that transition was managed?

    Mr Collette: We have been clear on the public record that we believe there is a role to manage the transition. The most obvious way to do that is with bringing together climate and energy policies to set where we are trying
    to go over the next decades.

    CHAIR: Do you agree that it would be cheaper for consumers if that transition is managed as opposed to simply market driven? Yes—okay, great. What is the expected retirement date for Yallourn?

    Mr Collette: Yallourn? 2032.

    CHAIR: What is the basis on which you have chosen that date?

    Mr Collette: That was the basis that was done upon privatisation. There were coal reserves out to that point in time and that was expected life of the power station. All power stations are a little arbitrary—you can continue to invest in them forever, if you choose to, but at some point in time they become uneconomic. It may be 2032; it may be some time before that. We will see.

    CHAIR: Is that consistent, in your view, with the Paris Agreement goals?

    Mr Collette: The 2032 date for Yallourn depends on quality and energy policy for Australia, so it very much depends on how Australia wants to address the targets set under the Paris Agreement and which sectors it wants to go and what it wants to do. We are open to any form of change that gets to emissions reducing, but we are not going to predetermine what the outcome is.
    See: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Environment_and_Communications/Coal_fired_power_stations/Public_Hearings

    It’s clear to me that EnergyAustralia is looking to governments to set coherent energy and climate policies consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement. IMO, that is not happening yet.

    Further along in the public hearing (per the transcript on p19):

    CHAIR: Okay. Back to Yallourn—am I right that your operating licence expires in 2026?

    Mr Collette: The coal licence expires in 2026.

    CHAIR: Right, so you have the life of the power station out to 2032, but the coal ending in 2026. Are you envisaging extending out that licence to 2032?
    Mr Collette: That licence was put in place upon privatisation. The current assumption we have is that the power station will run until 2032.

    CHAIR: Using what coal? Not that coal?

    Mr Collette: If the power station is running out to 2032 then we will have had conversations and explored extension of the coal licence. That very much depends on what energy and climate policy looks like.

    CHAIR: Sure. When the decision is made to close Yallourn, whether that is 2032 or earlier—as you flagged, it might be earlier—will that decision be made in Australia, Hong Kong or elsewhere?

    Mr Collette: That decision will ultimately be made by whoever owns Yallourn. Yallourn is owned, ultimately, by CLP Holdings, a Hong Kong-based listed investment company. They will ultimately make the decision.

    It seems humanity needs to get its act together quickly.
    See my comment: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/inner-west-fossil-fuel-divestment-mb1082/#comment-453962

    Therefore, I would suggest Yallourn W Power Station’s coal supply license, reportedly expiring in 2026 (in around 7 years time), should not be permitted to be extended, and this would be an appropriate time to then close Yallourn W, allowing sufficient time to build adequate alternative ‘firmed’ zero-carbon emissions generation supply, and transition the workers and businesses affected to other appropriate activities.

    But that requires effective planning that seems to be sadly lacking from governments – where’s the effective leadership?

    • OldCynic says

      Geoff, closing Yallourn in 2026 might reduce pollution in that bit of Victoria, but the implication that it is possible to ” build adequate alternative ‘firmed’ zero-carbon emissions generation supply , and transition the workers and businesses affected to other appropriate activities.” in seven years must be questioned.

      What technology – other than nuclear – is capable of zero-carbon emission generation of baseload power Not solar+storage. Not wind+storage. We have seen billions spent over the last twenty years, and all we have to show for it is an increasingly stressed grid, ever-increasing power prices, and the destruction of the economic model for private investment in baseload generation.

      Unless the political parties stop equating “nuclear” with “dirty”, and agree to abandon our band on use of nuclear power for our power stations we will be stuck paying more and more for ever-decreasing reliability of supply.

      “Transitioning the workers and business effected to other appropriate activities” is presumably a code statement for “closing down Australia’s manufacturing industry, and any other industry that cannot survive high-priced unreliable power”.

      It’s not good enough to simply spout weasel words about “needing effective planning and effective leadership”. Say exactly what generation model you want implemented and acknowledge its costs to the Australian economy.

      • Des Scahill says

        This link to an article by the Union of Concerned Scientists which is located here:

        https://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear-power/cost-nuclear-power

        seems an informed and relatively up-to-date summary of the issues surrounding nuclear power stations.

        Here are some quotes from the article:
        “The first generation of nuclear power plants proved so costly to build that half of them were abandoned during construction. Those that were completed saw huge cost overruns, which were passed on to utility customers in the form of rate increases. By 1985, Forbes had labeled U.S. nuclear power “the largest managerial disaster in business history.”

        The industry has failed to prove that things will be different this time around: soaring, uncertain costs continue to plague nuclear power in the 21st century. Between 2002 and 2008, for example, cost estimates for new nuclear plant construction rose from between $2 billion and $4 billion per unit to $9 billion per unit, according to a 2009 UCS report, while experience with new construction in Europe has seen costs continue to soar.

        A 2011 UCS analysis of new nuclear projects in Florida and Georgia shows that the power provided by the new plants would be more expensive per kilowatt than several alternatives, including energy efficiency measures, renewable energy sources such as biomass and wind, and new natural gas plants.”

        To paraphrase the article, ‘sweet dreams ‘ of cheap electricity from nuclear power stations have so far all eventually turned out to be a ‘reality nightmare’ of mammoth cost over-runs during construction (sometimes running into multi billions of dollars), project abandonments, and a need for huge government subsidies.

        The costs of eventually decommissioning a plant when it reaches the end of its useful life are also very significant.

        On top of all that, in today’s troubled world this Wikipedia article on the vulnerability of nuclear power plants to a wide range of different types of attack contains considerable food for thought.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulnerability_of_nuclear_plants_to_attack

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulnerability_of_nuclear_plants_to_attack

  3. Geoff Miell says

    OldCynic,
    I note you hide behind a pseudonym rather than reveal your real name.

    You state:
    “What technology – other than nuclear – is capable of zero-carbon emission generation of baseload power Not solar+storage. Not wind+storage.”

    It seems to me you are regurgitating the ill-informed/misinformed musings of certain sections of the media, certain shock-jocks, and propaganda of vested interests.

    See my Submission (#9) to the Australian Senate Select Committee into Fair Dinkum Power on pages 8-9 where I outline my reasons that nuclear fission-based energy in Australia makes no economic or timely energy security sense when there are other abundant, cheaper, more rapidly deployable, reliable, safer/lower-risk energy technology alternatives:
    https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Fair_Dinkum_Power/FairDinkumPower/Submissions

    The LUT/EWG report “Global Energy System Based on 100% Renewables: Power, Heat, Transport and Desalination Sectors”, published Apr 2019, provides the key finding that:

    “A global transition to 100% renewable energy across all sectors – power, heat, transport and desalination before 2050 is feasible[1]. Existing renewable energy potential and technologies, including storage, is capable of generating a secure energy supply at every hour throughout the year. The sustainable energy system is more efficient and cost effective than the existing system, which is based primarily on fossil fuels and nuclear. A global renewable transition is the only sustainable option for the energy sector, and is compatible with the internationally adopted Paris Agreement. The energy transition is not a question of technical feasibility or economic viability, but one of political will.”
    See: http://energywatchgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/EWG_LUT_100RE_All_Sectors_Global_Report_2019.pdf

    Australia cannot afford to wait for nuclear power to become available if it
    needs to keep the lights on in the 2020s, and beyond.

    You also state:
    ““Transitioning the workers and business effected to other appropriate activities” is presumably a code statement for “closing down Australia’s manufacturing industry, and any other industry that cannot survive high-priced unreliable power”.”

    You presume incorrectly, because it seems you are apparently ill-informed. The CSIRO/AEMO’s inaugural GenCost report, prepared collaboratively with a range of industry stakeholders, updates estimates of the cost to generate electricity from new power plants in Australia; GenCost 2018 found solar and wind technologies to be lowest cost.
    See: https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2018/Annual-update-finds-renewables-are-cheapest-new-build-power

    OldCynic, do you think the CSIRO/AEMO are wrong? What’s your compelling evidence?

    You also state:
    “It’s not good enough to simply spout weasel words about “needing effective planning and effective leadership”.”

    It seems to me you are promoting a technology that evidence/data indicates can’t be deployed quickly, is much more expensive, and is not long-term sustainable (because uranium and thorium are finite). That seems to me to be a recipe for blackouts, forced ‘load shedding’, and high priced energy in the 2020s and beyond, as ageing and increasingly less reliable Australian coal-fired power stations are retired.

    In the meantime, Australia’s (along with the rest of the world’s) GHG emissions continue to rise.

    Published last week (May 30) by think-tank Breakthrough was a policy paper “Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approach”. The Foreword is written by Retired Admiral Chris Barrie, who was Chief of the Australian Defence Force from 1998 to 2002. The policy paper presents a scenario where human-caused GHG emissions don’t peak until 2030 and where:

    “This scenario provides a glimpse into a world of “outright chaos” on a path to the end of human civilisation and modern society as we have known it, in
    which the challenges to global security are simply overwhelming and political panic becomes the norm.”
    See: https://www.breakthroughonline.org.au/papers

    The evidence I see suggests to me your notion that nuclear is the only option will be far too late to rapidly reduce the world’s GHG emissions.

    OldCynic, do you want blackouts and more expensive energy here in Australia in the 2020s and beyond, and risk the collapse of human civilisation and no long-term future for your children and grandchildren (if you have any?) due to dangerous climate change? Then keep promoting nuclear-fission energy technologies. Otherwise, stop heeding anti-renewable, ill-informed ideologues and become better informed with real evidence/data.

    As for your last sentence:
    “Say exactly what generation model you want implemented and acknowledge its costs to the Australian economy.”

    I suggest you view a YouTube video below to give you A SOLUTION highlighted by Professor Andrew Blakers. That’s ONE solution – there are others. My point is there are affordable, rapidly deployable solutions – it just requires political will, and an informed populace to insist on it happening – otherwise humanity risks EXTINCTION within this century.

  4. Lawrence Coomber says

    Michael global GHG emissions is a critical global technological challenge; not simply an Australian challenge.

    And a different mindset needs to be applied by us all to understand the subject on the global scale. Critically also is the knowledge that: globally 7.1 billion people will become 11.0 billion people by 2045 – and this fact alone propels the generation technology debate to new levels considering that today; about 50% of global citizens have no or little power at all.

    So how is the increased population (plus the existing 50%) going to exist in 2045 without massive infrastructure developing power everywhere?

    Firstly: GHG mitigation/reversal technology solutions moving forward cannot be home-grown “fixes” alone; and particularly as it applies to energy generation technology. The issue must be visualised as an “homogenous global technological issue” rather than a collective of discrete national issues having individual solutions.

    Get familiar with the term “in perpetuity global energy generation technology imperative” Michael. It’s one I coined several years ago, and continue to speak and write about it regularly, and its meaning becomes more significant every day.

    Globally a new sense of urgency has entered discussions regarding the technological imperatives that must be met to massively electrify and industrialize developing nations to modern standards in all ways and means, as well as transition away from fossil fuel generation to a primary non-polluting generation technology that will reduce global GHG emissions to insignificant levels.

    This is the critical challenge, and the clock is ticking before “runaway GHG effects” will become impossible to mitigate with devastating consequences, including the disintegration of global social structures, that will increasingly and through sheer necessity, become the disruptive global society norm.

    With emissions rising and the realisation that without drastic action, the world is on a track to precipitate a runaway climate change situation by the end of the century; recognition is growing of the need for a new level of ambition in current efforts to decarbonise and transform the global energy system.

    The incumbent primary global fossil fuel (coal) generation technology, as one of the major contributors to the urgent climate change issues unfolding, has a diminishing future to one of minor significance within about 70 years as a future global generation technology.

    Decarbonisation of the industrial, heating, transportation, as well as the development of zero emissions power generation, will be the whole focus of the new frontier age of power generation science this century.

    The global renewables sector (across the board) remains fragmented and lacks the capacity for sustained long-term investment and development on a global scale, to massively electrify and industrialize developing nations as well as satisfy the permanent ongoing redevelopment imperatives of developed nations. The global renewables sector, already firmly tracking on the obsolescence pathway, will diminish steadily to minor significance, and in a miniscule boutique applications role only by about 2050.

    NANS technology (new age nuclear solutions) being at the apex of power generation science, is the only practical form of power generation technology known that has the exploitable attributes that can satisfy the global energy imperative going forward in perpetuity.

    A recap on the key technological attributes that are essential moving global energy generation science forward (in broad terms) are:-

    1. Must be an energy dense technology at the apex of the energy science pyramid, and be able to deliver massive, safe, clean and low-cost energy;
    2. Replace all other forms of inefficient and polluting energy generation sources globally, and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to insignificant levels permanently;
    3. Be modular and scalable and easily deployed cost effectively to power new age energy intensive technologies, industries and businesses;
    4. Be available through modular design to cost effectively benefit all people throughout the world effectively and decisively.

    Interestingly, this is squarely a technological issue moving forward not a national government policy issue.

    National governments will have a minimal role in the development and deployment of in perpetuity new age nuclear generation technology moving forward though, as international corporate consortia are already in place and well established in developing and mapping the foundations for the new energy generation epoch.

    Lawrence Coomber

    • Geoff Miell says

      Lawrence Coomber,

      Have you read Des Scahill’s and my comments above?
      https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/yallourn-coal-closure-mb1086/#comment-455506
      https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/yallourn-coal-closure-mb1086/#comment-455395

      IMO, nuclear-fission energy technologies fail your point 3 test where it must be “easily deployed cost effectively”. It takes too long to build and is significantly more expensive than other electricity generator technologies. Nuclear cannot be deployed quickly in sufficient capacities to rapidly reduce human-caused GHG emissions.

      Uranium and thorium are finite energy resources and are therefore not long-term sustainable – they are not “perpetuity” energy resources. Only renewable energy resources are anywhere near “perpetuity” energy resources.

      You state:
      “Critically also is the knowledge that: globally 7.1 billion people will become 11.0 billion people by 2045 – and this fact alone propels the generation technology debate to new levels considering that today; about 50% of global citizens have no or little power at all.”

      At the risk of being pedantic, the human population is currently estimated at just over 7.7 billion people (not 7.1 billion).
      See: https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

      As for the human population growing to ‘11.0 billion people by 2045″; not likely if human-caused GHG emissions do not begin being rapidly curtailed within the next few years. If GHG emissions continue to grow beyond the next few years (even peaking by 2030), humanity is at risk of becoming EXTINCT within this century. The consequences are existential, necessitating immediate effective action on a global scale.

      You also state:
      “Interestingly, this is squarely a technological issue moving forward not a national government policy issue.”

      It seems to me that Admiral Chris Barrie, AC RAN Retired would likely disagree with you. He wrote in the Foreword of the think-tank Breakthrough policy paper “Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approach”:

      “A doomsday future is not inevitable! But without immediate drastic action our prospects are poor. We must act collectively. We need strong, determined
      leadership in government, in business and in our communities to ensure a sustainable future for humankind.”
      See: https://www.breakthroughonline.org.au/papers

      Nuclear-fission energy technologies are too slow to deploy, too expensive, and unsustainable long-term, with an ultra-long-term toxic waste legacy that will long outlast any energy benefits gained. Please stop flogging a technology that won’t save us from dangerous climate change. Please be better informed.

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