Statement regarding the planned closure of Eraring Power Station
17th February 2022
Origin Energy’s announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange this morning that they will close the coal-fired Eraring Power Station up to seven years earlier than anticipated will have far-reaching and major implications for our local community.
First and foremost, there will be many hundreds of local workers and their families rightfully concerned about their futures this morning. My own son is among them. They must be the focus of Origin Energy and both the State and Federal Governments as this massive and rapid shift in the power generation industry continues.
This decision does not impact on Eraring employees alone but those in associated industries, including Centennial Coal which provides coal to Origin’s Eraring operations.
This is a day we knew was coming, but is now coming way sooner than was thought. It’s why I have argued so vehemently for many years for a transition authority to manage the impacts on communities such as ours.
Origin Energy’s decision is aimed at meeting the demands of a rapidly-changing industry. It is a response being reflected around the world.
Sadly, successive governments and indeed many in the community have spent too much time arguing the facts about climate change and wind turbines to realise how quickly world energy markets were changing and shifting away from fossil fuels. We’re now starting our transition from way behind where we should have been.
There shouldn’t have been a need to fight for the Hunter Region and Lake Macquarie in particular to be included in the State Government’s plans to create Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) throughout the State. As I said last year, we should have been the first region identified.
Obviously, the impacts of Eraring’s closure are not limited to jobs. There are other environmental issues too, including many positive ones. Turning the pumps off and stopping the thermal input from the cooling system will see change in the local lake environment, for example, and these issues must be included in transition plans.
While many will be shocked by today’s decision, we should be heartened by Origin’s commitment to a future in renewables at Eraring.
Origin has assured me that it remains entirely committed to staying on the Eraring site to become a renewable energy powerhouse and also remains committed to funding the new sport and recreation centre. It must also remain committed to dealing with coal legacy issues such as contamination and coal ash as part of the transition process.
What we also need now is massive investment from the State and Federal governments in the infrastructure needed to attract new, high-tech, well-paying jobs of the future to Lake Macquarie.
That includes investment in roads, in health and in our natural environment. I have already raised these issues with the Treasurer.
Now is the time for the State Government to step up and fix the inadequate infrastructure in Lake Macquarie so we as a community have the best chance of being a major player in the new world of renewable energy.
On a very positive note, it was only yesterday that the Government announced an extraordinary amount of interest in the Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone. Private, commercial operators have flagged more than $100 billion worth of potential investment in renewable energy and storage projects within the REZ, including pumped hydro projects, large-scale battery, solar and wind projects.
Clearly, the private sector is ready to invest here, we just need the infrastructure to get them here.