Yesterday’s announcement by Alinta Energy that it would close its two coal-fired South Australian power stations on 31 March 2016 and the Leigh Creek coal mine that supplies them on 17 November 2015 is the sad reality of Green energy policies and a harbinger of things to come elsewhere in Australia.
Alinta foreshadowed these closures in June saying that the facilities would not operate past March 2018, then in July said they wouldn’t operate past March 2017 and yesterday announced the final March 2016 closure. A total of 440 people are employed by Alinta at these three sites, including around 250 at the mine.
Environmental campaigners typically breeze into regional areas in their air-conditioned cars, scream blue murder about the impact of coal mines and coal-fired power stations, demand they be closed, talk up all of the magical job opportunities in renewable energy or tourism that are just over the rainbow, then return to the city for their next media opportunity leaving locals out of a job.
At the time of the initial June announcement the Greens read from their usual script shedding crocodile tears for job losses while suggesting that a solar power station would be a suitable replacement. Even the Victorian Greens jumped in at the time warning that the closure of Victoria’s Hazelwood plant was “inevitable” and calling for a renewables-rich transition plan.
The mayor of Port Augusta, Sam Johnson, spoke of Port Augusta as “the nation’s capital of renewable technology,” and the South Australian premier said that the government had “already established a taskforce” and that a “community engagement team would provide support and advice to regional communities.”
Later in June Mayor Johnson added that a multi-million dollar assistance package from the state government (presumably for the council to manage) would help to entice new jobs to the area.
When in late September Alinta announced that a solar plant was not commercially feasible, in response the council said that an ‘advisory group’ was dealing with the situation and the state manufacturing minister said that government had “people on the ground…talking to people about their needs and issues.”
After yesterday’s announcement South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said that some workers would be able to join the public service and that Leigh Creek was “on the doorstep of some of the great tourism attractions.”
Incredibly, it appears that the Greens did not make any public comment on yesterday’s Alinta closure, with leader Richard Di Natale busy on a national tour.
South Australia already has the nation’s highest unemployment rate and highest electricity prices. With these power stations and mine, hundreds of men and women who were employed in a regional location on a commercial basis delivering a legal product that provided reliable electricity to the wider community are now out of a job. As Alinta employs half of the people in the town of Leigh Creek, vague hopes of future renewable energy and tourism jobs, and state and local government job taskforces will likely ring hollow.
Given that the Greens want every coal-fired power station in the country to be closed, and with mainstream politicians falling over themselves to sign off on escalating green-friendly targets, this story is destined to be repeated many times over in coming years.