End Of A Toxic Era – Hazelwood Power Station Offline

Hazelwood Power Station, Victoria, AustraliaImage: Simpsons fan 66, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

After nearly 50 years of operations, one of the world’s heaviest carbon polluting electricity generators – Hazelwood Power Station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley – is now offline.

At 5pm yesterday, the last of Hazelwood Power Station’s eight generation units shut down.

Built between 1964 and 1971 and powered by brown coal, Hazelwood was responsible for horrendous levels of emissions – and not just carbon dioxide that it spewed at the rate of 1,558 kg for each megawatt hour of electricity generated (approximately 15 million tonnes a year). This single plant was responsible for around 3 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas output.

According to Is.Hazelwood.Online, the station’s annual pollution payload also included:

  • 25,000 tonnes of nitrogen oxides
  • 14,000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide
  • 7,700 tonnes of hydrochloric acid
  • 74 kg of arsenic
  • 140 kg of lead
  • 4,800 tonnes of fine particulate matter
  • 6,900 tonnes of carbon monoxide
  • 440 kg of mercury

Environment Victoria has previously stated the power station consumed 27 billion litres of water each year and was the single highest emitter of dioxins in the country.

All that finally stopped yesterday.

Hazelwood Power Station shutdown

Image: Is.Hazelwood.Online

While environmentalists may be rejoicing, for some it is an understandably sad and worrying time; particularly for the workers affected.

The writing has been on the wall for Hazelwood for many years – it should have been retired in 2005, but was permitted to continue operations. Back in 2010, a report was published outlining how Hazelwood could be replaced with clean and renewable energy projects by as soon as the end of 2012. Implementation of the plan would have seen more jobs created than Hazelwood provided at the time.

It wasn’t until November last year when the station’s owners finally announced the plant’s closure after concluding it was no longer commercially viable.

With Hazelwood offline, which accounted for 20% of all energy generated in Victoria and 5% of the National Electricity Market total, what now in terms of energy security? According to the Sydney Morning Herald:

“…the Australian Energy Market Operator [AEMO] said Hazelwood’s closure would be offset by the availability of three mothballed gas-fired stations – one each in South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland – and large industrial businesses agreeing to time-shift their electricity use in the event of an emergency.”

While the shutdown of Hazelwood does represent the end of a toxic era, there’s still the legacy of the site itself to consider – and what will happen to the brown coal remaining at the adjoining mine.