This week Alcoa announced the closure of it's Port Henry smelter and aluminium rolling mills after a review conducted in the last year. This is a definite employment blow to the Geelong region, coming on the heals of the Ford factory announced closure. But it can provide impetus to reduce carbon emissions for climate change mitigation action by shutting down polluting coal fired capacity now excess to demand. The Alcoa closure will result in a reduction of about 360MW of electricity currently supplied to the Port Henry aluminium smelter. The Anglesea coal fired power station provides 150MW of this power, which would mean a need to reduce La Trobe Valley generating capacity by about 210MW.
EnergyAustralia has announced shelving plans for construction of a 1000MW gas fired power station in the Latrobe Valley at it's Yallourn site saying that low wholesale energy prices and reduced electricity demand did not make the project viable. EnergyAustralia is a division of Hong Kong-based utility CLP Holdings Ltd.
New research on energy demand in the National Energy Market (NEM) by Pitt and Sherry's carbon emissions Index (CEDEX) shows demand for power for electricity has been falling since late 2010. Power generation from black coal (mainly in NSW) has been falling since the start of 2009, while there has been a fall in generation from (Victorian) brown coal since July 2012.
Almost certainly the Federal Governments Renewable Energy Target (RET) driving construction of wind farms, and now the Carbon Tax increasing the cost of coal fired power, as well as energy efficiency programs and drop in electricity demand from consumers, has been driving these trends.
Alcoa have announced a review of the future of Point Henry Smelter near Anglesea in a press release to the Australian Stock Exchange. The smelter at Point Henry has been operating for 49 years and employs about 600 people. Maybe the government subsidies that prop up an inefficient industrial plant need to be redirected into reskilling, retraining and relocating the 600 odd workers that face losing their jobs.
Friends of the Earth has welcomed the revelation that the Victorian Labor Government is considering closing down a quarter of the capacity of the Hazelwood brown coal-fired power plant, but has maintained a call along with other climate change and environmental groups for a full phase out of the developed world's dirtiest coal fired station replacing capacity with renewable power generation and energy efficiency savings.
The CSIRO is about to build a new research solar power tower at it's National Solar Energy Centre in Newcastle that uses just the sun's energy and heated air in a Brayton turbine to produce electricity. This is innovative renewable technology - the largest of its type in the world - to combat use of fossil fuels and climate change, to be built and fully operational by March 2011.
Victoria's reliance on coal fired electricity has increased in the last decade, with both electricity generation and greenhouse pollution from coal increasing by over 9% since 2000, according to a report commissioned by Environment Victoria - Victoria’s Energy Mix 2000-2009 (Download PDF). The increase is despite the exponential growth in the wind sector, which has barely replaced the decline of hydro power due to drought conditions and climate change.