France’s Engie shuts down Australia’s dirtiest power plant

The french energy company Engie has taken a decision to close 1,600-megawatt brown coal-fired power station power plant in Hazelwood in March 2017, with 750 jobs to be lost.

Engie said it was also looking to sell the brown coal-fired Loy Yang B power station in the Latrobe Valley and the gas-fired Kwinana plant in Western Australia which supplies steam and electrical power.

“Hazelwood is now more than 50 years old. It has been a wonderful contributor to the National Electricity Market but we have now reached the point where it is no longer economic to operate,”

-Engie’s Australia chief executive Alex Keisser said in a statement.

“Engie in Australia would need to invest many hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure viable and, most importantly, continued safe operation. Given current and forecast market conditions, that level of investment cannot be justified.”

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the federal government would work collaboratively with the Victorian government, and a ministerial taskforce had been formed “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 unveiled an Aus$43 million (US$33 million) support package for the workers, alongside Aus$22 million from the state government.

Hazelwood — which supplies around 22 percent of Victoria’s energy requirements and about four percent of the nation’s — is 72 percent owned by Engie and 28 percent by Japanese trading house Mitsui.

Paris said late last year that Engie — partly owned by the French government — was going to stop investing in the development of coal-fired power plants, the biggest source of man-made CO2 emissions.

Brown coal is considered “dirtier” than black coal, with environmentalists welcoming the closure.

“Hazelwood is the dirtiest power station in Australia and one of the dirtiest in the world,”

Australian Conservation Foundation’s chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said.

“This is a key moment in a transition that is already well under way — the switch from dirty energy to clean energy — and Australia’s energy policy is now at a fork in the road.”

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