Hazelwood power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley has been tipped to close as early as April next year.
State Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio attempted to contact Engie when news of the closure was released.
“Let me be very clear – the response from senior management was that no decision has been made,” she said.
“Our government is absolutely committed to working with the people of the Latrobe Valley, to plan ahead to ensure their future is a prosperous one, and is a future that is sustainable.”
The Victorian Government has committed $40 million in assistance to the Latrobe Valley to attract new industries to the area.
Energy analysts estimate Hazelwood generates between 11 and 12 terrawatt-hours of energy a year, or around 20 per cent of all energy generated in Victoria, and 5 per cent of the national electricity market.
Hazelwood was built between 1964 and 1971, and when it is fully operational is reportedly responsible for up to 15 per cent of Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions and 3 per cent of national emissions.
It is currently co-owned by French energy company Engie (74 per cent) and Japan’s Mitsui (28 per cent).
Around 550 full-time jobs and 300 contract jobs are expected to go when the station closes, but up to 200 jobs could be kept cleaning up the site and rehabilitating the open-cut coal mine adjacent to the plant.
Green groups have welcomed the news, with Greens’ leader Adam Bandt reportedly ‘exuberant’ at the news.
“This good news is the start of Victoria’s energy transition, where dirty coal is replaced with clean renewable energy,” he said.
Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham said retiring Hazelwood was the single largest step that could be taken to clean up Australia’s energy supply.
“Engie is at a fork in the road. Like all other major global electricity companies, it must choose clean energy as the world acts on climate change,” he said.
In 2014, Hazelwood experienced a coal mine fire that burned for more than a month, blanketing Morwell in smoke. An inquiry into the fire found it was likely pollution had caused deaths in the area.