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With the closure of Hazelwood something ‘green’ can grow

By Jennifer Meyer-Smith

Hazelwood’s closure is a central issue to the whole of the world (even if they don’t know it yet) and it’s happening in my own backyard.

Hazelwood has operated in the Latrobe Valley for half a century and generations of Victorians have seen it developed as state infrastructure, then privatised by Kennett and now defeated by community opposition to dirty coal fuel energy.

It is a reprieve for all of us, who to any degree fear the onslaught of climate change and, who recognise the negligent waste of opportunities for alternative clean, green energy industries, as well as innovative alternative and diverse industries.

I’m no scientific expert who can explain the vast advantages of wind, solar and other renewable energies, and I invite such informed and eloquent people to join the discussion to explain why they are the future of energy delivery, so that our trees are not decimated, our agricultural pastures stay green and don’t become black, our marine ecosystems stay blue and viable, and our climate bearable for ecological diversity. I could continue my poetic descriptors but I know you get my point.

The emphasis of my article is on how our new combined political impact and the commercial decision by Engie, has now delivered ALL of us a golden opportunity to realise our aspirations for a better future for our children and our environment. The emphasis is on how we can feel good in the present about building that future. The benefits will become increasingly tangible by being involved in the rejuvenation process.

The Latrobe Valley has suffered over 20 percent unemployment rates for a long extended period of time which has far exceeded other regions of Australia. The Latrobe Valley has suffered such a malaise for so long that its plight had fallen off the radar of political retrospectivity and community concern. It was just a fact of life and the fact that rampant disadvantage, crime and substance abuse were at high thresholds, oh well, that’s just the way it was.

Now, with a new surge of potential unemployed and under-employed, government concern is reborn! Praise the Lord! Maybe it is because even the most ignorant politician or dignitary cannot deny how the Latrobe Valley cannot afford the devastation of a doubly-enforced entrenchment of disadvantage and poverty caused by non-effective employment opportunities and infrastructure supports.

So these are my solutions (and I invite ideas from others to BUILD on my suggestions). Don’t bother to argue or attempt to trump my ideas but I do invite you to come up with some extra ideas of your own so that I can advocate and represent them to Latrobe City Council and the State Government when I meet with both levels in my pursuit for effective and equitable opportunities for the Latrobe Valley, wider Gippsland region and Australia full stop.

My innovative concept is that the ways to get unemployed and under-employed people back into meaningful and sustainable employment is to provide such following opportunities:

  • The State Government and Latrobe City Council provide a large under-cover, weather-proof marketplace with small or medium, affordable rental and lockable cubicles for people to operate their micro-businesses, which can vary from innovative science projects, innovative new industries, jewellery making, tutoring, antiques and collectables, computer repairs, plants, food, shoe repairs and the list goes on. This concept is similar to the Incubation Hub concept at Melton, which from reports has had much success in promoting effective self-employment opportunities for low and no income people, who want to escape the drudgery and destitution of unemployment and under-employment.
  • The State Government and Latrobe City Council coordinate a government-backed micro-financing regime for low and no income people to fund their grassroots enterprises understanding that the micro-finance needs to be over and above Newstart for a reasonable period of time until the businesses can support each person’s dignified living standard.

The reality is that there are already thousands of disadvantaged unemployed and under-employed people in the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland wider region.

The closure of Hazelwood is a magnificent opportunity to not only rehabilitate our environment away from dirty coal fuel and towards green, clean energy but also to grow new, diverse, innovative industries which I am advocating.

The promotion of self-employment opportunities for unemployed and under-employed people in the Latrobe Valley solves multitudinal problems in the current situation of Hazelwood’s closure, such as Health and Mental Health problems, socio-economic disadvantage, while it strongly promotes flourishing home-grown Aussie industries and ongoing employment for people, who are ready, willing and able to give it a go.

I’m out there advocating these remedies to the devastation caused by old coal fuel industries and neoliberal inadequacy and disservice. I’m looking for your added ideas of what I will advocate when I meet with these officials in these uncertain but pregnant times of opportunity.


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  1. Carol Taylor

    I noted that Frydenberg was very quick to point the finger at Daniel Andrews..this being in spite of the fact that foreign owners Engie has decided to ‘quit coal’ in a number of other countries. Anyone with any knowledge of the Hazelwood plant would know that ‘old’ Hazelwood has been barely hanging on for at least a decade. Perhaps Frydenberg should note that it was not a Labor state government which caused the closure of Hazelwood as was stated on numerous occasions by Engie.

    I had occasion to work in the Latrobe Valley a couple of decades ago and was somewhat dismayed at how a number of towns had that run down feeling, far different from when I visited as a child and the area was full of promise, an indication of Aussie prosperity and endeavour. With imagination, this can happen again. However, given the Turnbull government’s immediate response has been to point score rather than look for solutions, and given their philosophical aversion to doing anything remotely connected with climate change or alternative energies, my expectations are low. Would they be interested in turning non viable paddocks and former mine sites into solar fields or vats for algae/hydrogen production or would they denigrate such efforts?

  2. Harquebus

    Solar and wind energy collectors are net energy sinks and are a waste of precious fossil fuel resources.

    “Renewable energy sources are often advocated for their low CO2 emissions at point of use, but the overall product lifecycle is often forgotten about completely. In addition, many chemical products are needed in mining operations, leading to severe long-term pollution.”

    Is renewable energy really environmentally friendly?

    “If we used more energy to get the energy we need to survive then we will surely perish.”
    “An inevitable consequence of this aspect of human nature commonly known as greed is that we have already used up the highest ERoEI fossil fuel resources and as time passes the ERoEI of new resources is steadily falling.”
    “The greatest risk to human society today is the notion that we can somehow replace high ERoEI fossil fuels with new renewable energies like solar PV and biofuels.”

    ERoEI for Beginners

  3. kerri

    My first thought was solar! I do not know enough about energy transmission but it would seem logical to use the land at Hazelwood for solar panels and transmit the power via the old lines (if they are still in good nick) in the short term that would provide employment in setting up. Not sure how much employment there is in actually run ing a solar power plant but I have always mused whether the panels need regular cleaning?? Surely they must wirk better when the surface is clean? If the land is not sufficient then surely wind turbines could be installed.
    I haven’t done any research so these are just though bubbles. But I would be curious to know.
    I am sure if you reserch hard enough you can find anything to support your beliefs eh Harquebus?

  4. silkworm

    I would like to expand on your suggestion of micro-business involving plants, and I suggest that serious investigation should be made into one specific plant with remarkable medicinal power, and that is cannabis. I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding this plant, but public opinion – and legislation – is rapidly changing when people find out its ability to treat cancer, HIV-AIDS, epilepsy, and many other disorders. The industry should be expanded to include scientific testing labs to determine the purity and efficacy of the strains. But this plant has other applications besides medicinal, and I am thinking of the potential for hemp seed oil as an alternative fuel source, as well as the use of the fibre for clothing, as an alternative to the environmentally unfriendly cotton; and as a cheap source of building material in the form of “hempcrete.”

  5. Kaye Lee

    The trouble with being a free marketeer is that you can’t control when people decide a business/industry is not worth the investment. People are not going to spend a fortune refurbishing aging coal fired power generators and the sooner the Coalition stops wandering around saying “coal is great” and faces the reality of needing to encourage renewable energy to cover these inevitable closures, the sooner we will reach some level of energy security.

    Nasa recently announced that September was the warmest September on record. There’s nothing too surprising about that – 11 of the past 12 months have been the warmest of each month. Only July did not set a record – it had to be content with being the third-warmest July on record.

    The 12 months to September set a new high for the warmest 12-month period recorded (breaking the old record set in August) of 1.04C above the average of the 1951-1980. The same period in 1908 was 0.42C below the average.

    Over to you Malcolm…..

  6. Harquebus

    My beliefs are the result of my research, not the other way around.

    Those that believe that renewable energy is viable are in for a nasty shock.

    “despite a string of optimistic choices resulting in low values of energy investments, the ERoEI is significantly below 1. In other words, an electrical supply system based on today’s PV technologies cannot be termed an energy source, but rather a non-sustainable energy sink or a non-sustainable NET ENERGY LOSS.”


  7. diannaart

    Both state and federal governments knew the closure of Hazelwood was inevitable. Naturally, both governments started planning ahead and now have a plan to introduce a diversity of schemes to promote agriculture, small business and recycling as much of the old Hazelwood plant as possible into material available for artwork, landscape and other small scale works…oops…

    …sorry, that is happening in another universe far, far away.

    Excellent topic Jennifer – good to know what you have been up to.

    “There is no doubt a growing concern for the world around us, and recycling is an integral part of minimising our impact on the environment. We see recycling as apolitical, in that we can all agree it’s a good idea. Eventually, we realised that businesses, government and individuals may also be willing to pay to divert these products from landfill, and that we could provide the recycling solutions they were looking for,” Gemma Kaczerepa, from TerraCycle Australia, said.

  8. Rossleigh

    Harquebus, just who are the people who wrote the blog and what are their qualifications? Merely citing a blog from two unknowns is hardly evidence or research. Has this article been published anywhere? Has it been peer reviewed?

  9. Harquebus

    They are not unknown energy consultants now.

    Search criteria: ferroni hopkirk

    I do not post links that I have not read.


  10. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Thanks all,

    for your responses thus far.


    I too, am interested in the many benefits of clean hemp and would be interested to see it developed as you outlined.


    I’ll print off that article and somehow wield what it says into my proposal.

  11. Adrianne Haddow

    Excellent, socially responsible article, Jennifer
    You are working/thinking harder than most of our paid “representatives” in government.

    Some great ideas regarding future utilisation of the Hazelwood site.
    Well thought out, particularly those advocating the utilisation of the present infrastructure for renewable energy.
    Maybe the company who owned, and profited from the site, could throw some money towards making it a secure, non- toxic, rehabilitated site.
    I love silkworm’s suggestion regarding the usefulness of hemp, and the future opportunities in that business.

    Harquebus, I share your concerns for our planet’s future.
    If renewable energy is not viable, what are your suggestions for our energy future?

    More to the point of this article of Jennifer’s, what are your suggestions for future employment in the Latrobe area?

  12. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Cheers Adrianne.

    I can see you share the positivity for the potential.

  13. metadatalata

    Harquebus I believe your data on at least wind generation equipment is well out of date. If the towers are constructed of steel, they can be recycled. The carbon blades can be re-shaped and reinforced so are recyclable. I expect that most of the mechanical parts are also recyclable. I would not be surprised if mandated solar panel construction that guarantees a minimum recycle component is already in place considering how popular it is becoming. It is all the more reason for government to get their heads out of the sand and start getting behind new construction standards and technologies rather than standing in the way.

  14. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I like your thinking, metadatalata

  15. Jaquix

    I have fond memories of nany Easter camps at Hazelwood Pondage with Sea Scouts. It was a very basic camp and near deserted, but we used the water for canoeing, etc. Could this camp if still there, be developed as an adventure camp for school kids?

  16. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I intend to establish that tomorrow’s appointment is just the first of a sequence of such like and it will not be just a chitchat. Your memory, Jaquix, will be represented.

  17. Harquebus


    Will all that you describe be done with or without fossil fuels?
    I think that they will be left as idle rusting hulks and will be a reminder of our generations stupidity for decades to come.

    “Windmills are too dependent on oil, from mining and fabrication to delivery and maintenance and fail the test of “can they reproduce themselves with wind power?””
    “Not only would windmills have to generate enough power to reproduce themselves, but they have to make enough power to run civilization.”
    “If the energy costs of intermittency, back-up conventional plant, and grid connection were added to the “cost” of windfarms, the EROEI would be far lower than current EROEI studies show.”

    “Manufacturing wind turbines is a resource-intensive process. A typical wind turbine contains more than 8,000 different components, many of which are made from steel, cast iron, and concrete.
    One such component are magnets made from neodymium and dysprosium, rare earth minerals mined almost exclusively in China, which controls 95 percent of the world’s supply of rare earth minerals.”
    “There’s not one step of the rare earth mining process that is not disastrous for the environment.”

    Big Wind’s Dirty Little Secret: Toxic Lakes and Radioactive Waste


  18. Andreas Bimba

    Jennifer you should be congratulated for being so proactive on helping the people of the Latrobe Valley.

    Your concept of micro-financing and other support for start-up businesses is sound and should be offered nationally as a very worthy and low cost spoke of economic engagement and development. Unfortunately I only see this as a small part of the solution for the Latrobe Valley.

    The main problem is the Hazelwood power station brought in millions of dollars of cash into the local economy and this will soon cease. Similar large industries that sell to other regions or interstate will take time to establish and in fact may never establish in the Latrobe Valley. This means a big ongoing cash shortfall which will correspond to a net jobs shortfall. Microbusinesses in this scenario will find it very hard to establish and many existing businesses will fail.

    The Japanese government (METI) is still researching with the Victorian government the production of hydrogen from Latrobe Valley brown coal and sequestering the waste CO2 into the Bass Straight gas/oil fields. This may be announced by Daniel Andrews but the Greens will probably oppose it as sequestration may not work well enough and would prefer hydrogen to be made from renewably generated electricity.

    The real solutions are federal with fiscal stimulus, direct government investment into infrastructure and clean energy, sound commercial and industrial policy, trade policy and an MMT type of job guarantee scheme being most important but with incompetent neoliberal governments this isn’t going to happen for a while. Don’t expect much from a Labor federal government either as they also believe in balanced federal budgets so have little room for meaningful policy.

    I unfortunately recommend that many people if at all possible relocate to Melbourne or wherever else unemployment is lower. Sorry but that’s how I see it.

    Micro-businesses that sell external to the Latrobe Valley are however a good option and should be prioritised and are more likely to receive financial support from the state and federal governments. The Latrobe Valley has quite good transport infrastructure, empty industrial and commercial buildings and a skilled workforce. I unfortunately can’t envisage a clean energy industry starting up there unless existing businesses in this field receive a subsidy to relocate to the Latrobe Valley. Clean energy is science and R&D intensive and will probably locate near the main academic institutions and research organisations or where some special advantage exists. Biofuels will need to produced in Australia and perhaps the state government or federal government could provide incentives for this to establish in the valley.

    The hemp and cannabis idea is actually very good in my opinion. Good agricultural land is nearby and local processing into a miriad of products that can be sold nationally and internationally looks practical. Now is the time due to new discoveries of the medicinal benefits. Many pharmaceutical businesses are not that far away in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne and a lot of medical research is performed in Melbourne. Processing of other agricultural products, especially new niche products is worth looking into.

    Sorry Jennifer that I can’t be more positive but as I mentioned the real solutions are in Canberra.

  19. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    thank you for your considered response. I am also very interested in the growing medical research and pharmaceutical businesses in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne and I agree about hemp production.

    I’m not saying micro-businesses are the only answer and I know the funding and infrastructure supports must come from Canberra.

    My point is that the mobilisation must start locally and the voices must be loud from the local community and government, so that Canberra pricks its ears.

    Micro-businesses can operate to fill the voids of what large industries don’t provide. Micro-businesses can begin in the short term without the long wait before large projects can get up and running.

  20. Andreas Bimba

    Jennifer if you or some of your helpers can hold town hall meetings and rallies – that creates local political power which will help with gaining state and federal government support. Grants and various support measures for businesses to set up in the Latrobe Valley can be a successful path.

  21. Harquebus

    Did you see the little message that I left for you over on John Kelly’s page? I would like very much for you to contact me.

  22. Harquebus

    Adrianne Haddow
    Apologies for not noticing your question.
    My suggestion is conservation of resources and population reduction.
    Unfortunately, a lot of people will be idled until equilibrium with the natural world is attained.

  23. Kim Southwood

    Excellent proactive ideas, Jennifer, with some other really supportive, positive comments. They offer an excellent framework for many areas of low employment around Australia.

    I’m concerned that Harquebus opposes the idea of minimising emissions with renewables. His solution is to conserve fossil fuels by embarking on the Herculean task of population reduction. I agree in so far as growing population along with production which is so favoured by our major party politicians is absolutely unsustainable. However, our fossil fuels are not only finite, their emissions are alarmingly unsustainable for planetary health as we know it.

    Factored into the building of renewable infrastructure there is also mindful awareness of harmful emissions involved in setting up. Environmentally aware professionals in science, engineering, and associated technologies take part in the processes. I recommend a quick squizz at Below Zero Emissions’ (BZE’s) 2010 Climate Change Report launch – BZE has been busily reporting on the ways and means to a ten year time frame for zero emissions since then – most recently in transitioning to electrically driven transport using renewable energy, including high speed rail.

    Could go on, but won’t – except to say thankyou and others for the excellent socially responsible ideas.

    (p.s. The BZE launch cited above included an address by our current PM when he was playing second fiddle to Abbott. Revealing)

  24. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Thanks Kim,

    I’ll look into what you say.

  25. Rodney Scherer

    COW POWER! My apologies I hope I don’t tread on to many toes here. I feel passionate about the opportunity to turn the perception of the Latrobe Valley around from a dirty place where you wind your windows up to drive through to a place to visit and live. An artist colleague sent me your article after I had responded to her anecdote of arriving in the Latrobe Valley in the late 1990’s I came here in the mid 1970’s to attend the innovative vanguard Gippsland School of Art (the only one represented as in the National Gallery of Australia)
    Initially to stay for 2 years, I’m still here! Gippsland an underrated extraordinary place.
    What we have is a failure of the ruling class Politicians and Bureaucrats and you think they will change? Good luck Jennifer Meyer-Smith.
    Firstly I suggest people lift there sights beyond the Sunday market concept suggested here by Ms Meyer-Smith. Yes it will help individuals but not the community, region or state in the long term. What needs to happen is the community has to partition these appointed leaders and the self appointed community leaders /ambassadors to get into thinking beyond the immediate and upscale the concepts. Problem with the closure of Hazelwood is scale, micro economics??? SILKWOOD has the right idea. I think it can go further with some smart thinking
    1. Hemp for fibre you can grow 2 crops a year you get (about 4 times ) more fibre per acre than hardwood plantations. Multiply that by the number of years it takes to grow hardwood trees (25 yrs approx) thats 100 times more over that period! Meaning we can reduce the impact of paper plantations on our beautiful Strzelecki ranges. They are currently chopping the plantation down between Morwell and Churchill and the amount of material left on the ground is so wasteful.
    2. I believe Bio energy power stations can provide that much needed base load energy which climate change skeptics deniers use to dump on renewable energy sector. Bio energy is here (drive down the Princes freeway to the tomatoe greenhouse its run on bio energy. Bio energy is used by the Sugar industry in Queensland It’s used by the city of Sao Paulo in South America Canberra abattoir in Canberra since the early 1970s! Imagine the Potatoe growers the Dairy Farmers all getting into so certainty with supply of material to a digester. All that afore mentioned waste from forestry operations ( even hemp growing!) going into power generation. In the late 1970’s Robyn Williams on the ABC Science show interviewed 2 significant people. 1. Dr Barry Commoner a bio scientist and ecologist who suggested an integrated industry of agriculture and manufacturing that together would provide a sustainable economy. 2. Richard St Barbe Baker who put forward the idea of the earth needing 30% green cover to be sustainable. If agriculture Farmers grow trees on thier property they get better quality pasture and livestock. Putting these things together getting industry and government to commit to a sustainable future is the key.
    We are at the cross roads! Are those at the wheel awake or asleep? What is required is commitment beyond the 3 year election cycle. Australia was a world leader in many areas but we have outsourced everything under the canopy of economic rationalism. We have been cheated out of our resources by short sellers. Economic rationalism has failed the concepts of perpetual growth rely on exploitation with gay abandon and a denial of long term consequences, failing the community.
    I want to see our elected representatives to step up and work at getting things working for the long term. If they lack perception and vision (many do!) they need to get out of the way. Too many who have let all this failure wash over the community are still there! I will conclude with saying I am encouraged by recent dialogue from the current Latrobe City Mayor Cr Kellie O’Callaghan. All need to step up and get into Melbourne and Canberra and bend the ears of parliamentarians. Thanks to anyone who has read my rave.

  26. Jaquix

    I think Bob Hawke might have called a SUMMIT ! The sort of thing the Prime Minister should be doing, whereas in fact he is doing the exact opposite. Get community, business and anyone with an interest, to get together, brainstorm and workshop. This of course should have been done before, but better late than never. Thanks Jennifer.

  27. Rodney Scherer

    I suggest everyone read Graham Lloyd ‘Greener Planet will be key to unlocking reliable energy’ Inquirer page 15. Weekend Australian, Dec 31-Jan1 2017. “in Europe bioenergy is the source of about 63% of renewable energy’ The greens don’t like it because it they see it as a treat to native forests! I assume this discussion will be ignored by all and sundry until it comes back to bite.

  28. Kyran

    Great read, Ms Meyer-Smith. There were three stories that got my attention over the past few months that may be of interest to you.
    The first was about the introduction of seaweed to the feed of livestock. Like politicians, livestock emit more dangerous gasses from their mouths than their arses. Introducing seaweed to their diet reduces methane expulsions from between 20% to 99%, depending on the type of seaweed. There are no seaweed farms in Australia. The distance between Port Welshpool and Omeo would have to be worth a look.

    The next one was about a ‘greenhouse’ powered by solar technology.
    “The glass is embedded with nanoparticles that work to draw out 90 per cent of the ultraviolet (UV) and infrared rays from the sun, and transfer those rays to solar cells embedded on the edge of the glass panels.
    The rays are converted into energy, while allowing 70 per cent of visible light to pass through.”
    Those nanoparticle thingy’s were what Tesla was using in the paintwork of cars to help fuel their solar technology for the cars.
    It’s a good read.,d.dGc

    The next one was about conventional, but not so conventional, greenhouses.

    Andrews is talking about big investment in the area. Lets hope they use science, rather than politics, to decide where they spend the money. Jay Weatherill didn’t go far enough. California went solo on an emission trading scheme with that Arnie bloke. It has been around the 7th largest economy on the planet ever since. It has grown, whilst the states that didn’t subscribe have shrunk. If Weatherill won’t do it in SA, and Andrews won’t do it in Vic, how about Gippsland starts it off? Given the Hazelwood fiasco, it’s got to be worth a look.
    Goodness knows, we no longer expect our leaders to lead. Fair play to you, Ms Meyer-Smith. Take care

  29. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Thanks Kyran for your valued feedback.

    I will research your citations and get back to you tomorrow with my comments.

  30. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Thanks Kyran,

    I’ve read the articles you sent and will pass them onto the group I’m involved in for innovative ideas and projects to advance and sustain the Latrobe Valley and wider Gippsland now that Hazelwood has finally bitten the dust.

    I love the idea of the solar greenhouses growing crops in the open inland spaces. The Mexican greenhouses look like very doable solutions to beating destructive storms and cows eating seaweed to control emissions makes a lot of sense to me.

    All three solutions are conceivably doable for Gippslanders to develop as industries for a cleaner, greener home industrial economy while providing exciting employment opportunities for people transcending from old, tired industries or the impoverishment of unemployment.

  31. Kyran

    Your welcome, Ms Meyer-Smith. There was talk at one stage of the Churchill Campus (Federation University Australia) developing agriculture and aquaculture courses. With things like the seaweed, it would be a quicker development path with a commercial outcome that could be of benefit to the uni and the area. One of the articles I read on the seaweed pointed out that the only commercial scale producers were in Asia and that we are importing from them!
    Andrews has made repeated statements to the effect the government will be announcing various packages for the Gippsland region and education was a part of the development program. Trusting politicians is not something I recommend but it will be interesting to see what they come up with.
    Sláinte mhaith. Take care

  32. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    do dheagh shlàinte.


    Don’t worry, I’ve learnt from experience how wankers in power say big things but deliver nothing.

    I’m worried the same is happening right now in the Latrobe Valley despite the pretense of the LVA , Latrobe City Council and State political posturing.

    I’m worried that only the well-connected to political power and money will reap the rewards of funds available for ideas and projects that can start running.

    I might add that I have already had numerous discussions at different levels and the same old, same old political game plays and stonewalling (including Wade Noonan) has already happened to me.

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