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1000 workers could lose years of pay after coal operator closes early

Energy Australia
Energy Australia

A foreign backed proponent’s decision to shut down a coal operation ahead of schedule will cause most of its workforce to lose up to four years of income.

Hong Kong-owned Energy Australia will permanently close down the Yallourn Coal Power Station in the year 2028 instead of the originally anticipated 2032 deadline.

Climate change

The proponent complained about having to spend between $200 million and $300M annually to keep the operation running, and its potential impact on an environmental theory that burning fossil fuels creates carbon emissions, which might influence long-term weather patterns.

The company will use the closure to reduce carbon emissions by more than 60 per cent and help achieve its climate-change goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

“Today is really day one of a long-term plan that brings together many people across the energy sector to work together to deliver the clean energy transformation for all,” managing director Catherine Tanna said in a public statement.

“Energy Australia is determined to demonstrate that coal-fired power can exit the market in a way that supports our people and ensures customers continue to receive reliable energy.”

The employer will also invest more money in renewable energy and construct what it promises to be the world’s largest battery project.

“Meanwhile, our new battery will help to secure Victoria’s energy supply and enable more renewables to enter the system. It would be larger than any battery operating in the world today,” Tanna said.

Years of income lost

However, the closure is widely expected to affect about 500 permanent employees plus up to 500 additional workers who normally assist during major unit outages. Many of them will lose about four years of income.

Industry advocates are concerned the coal operation’s workforce will have much less time to reskill and find other work.

“Energy workers at Yallourn have been powering Victoria for decades and they do not deserve to be thrown on the scrap heap,” Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Mining and Energy Victorian president Trevor Williams said in a public statement.

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Williams wants Energy Australia and the State Government to arrange better “provisions” for affected workers to retire early, a Worker Transfer Scheme to redeploy them to nearby coal operations, and create more “secure, well-paid jobs” across the region.

“Many will choose to work through to retirement but those Yallourn workers with years and decades left to give deserve opportunities for good, local jobs, including transfer to nearby power stations and decommissioning and rehabilitation of the site,” he said.

“With seven years’ notice, this is a chance for Energy Australia and the Victorian Government to step up with a comprehensive plan for affected workers and the Latrobe community – we need to do better than Hazelwood … the community is still suffering from the sudden closure of Hazelwood in 2017 with just four months’ notice.”

Each year Yallourn generates up to 1480 megawatts, which is enough to supply about 20 per cent of the Garden State’s electricity needs or 8 per cent of the entire National Electricity Market.

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