Collie needs to begin to prepare for the ‘inevitable’ transition away from coal-powered energy generation before its too late, according to Climate Councillor and energy expert Professor Andrew Stock.
Professor Stock, who is one of the authors of the Climate Council’s recently-released report End of the Line: Coal in Australia, said there was only a limited future for coal-powered energy production and communities like Collie should begin the transition to renewable energies as soon as possible.
“The reality is coal – whether it be for mining or producing electricity – doesn’t have a long future,” he said.
“Coal-powered energy generation is the most expensive form of energy production and coal-fired power stations, like Bluewaters Power Station which is less than 10 years old, uses technology that is already obsolete.”
Professor Stock said the coal-powered energy generation sector would only survive until the power stations began to break down as it was ‘not possible to upgrade’ them for the future.
“Communities should be thinking about the future,” he said.
“Places like Collie should be getting on the front foot and looking to start transitioning to renewable energies before coal-fired power stations come to an end.”
Professor Stock said Collie’s situation is similar to that of Port Augusta in South Australia, which faced its own issues with the future of coal-fired power stations just two years ago.
He said the community hadn’t prepared for the closure of the Northern Power Station in May 2016 and felt the effects on its local economy before it began to embrace renewable energies.
Professor Stock said the community was now the home of solar and wind-power energy production projects as well as an innovative project that used the sun to desalinate water, which has helped grow the region’s agriculture sector.
Professor Stock said while there was opposition to transitioning away from coal due to the loss of jobs, he said that a lot of the skills required by workers in the coal industry would be adaptable for the renewable energy sector.
“If you’ve got someone who has the skills needed to run a coal-fired power station, then they’ll be able to use that to run a solar power station because the principles are basically the same,” he said.
Professor Stock also said that the transition would reduce the health risks posed to the community by coal.
“Studies from across the world – not just in Australia – have consistently shown that coal, whether its mining, transporting or burning, poses health risks to the community,” he said.
He said communities around coal-fired power stations around the country showed higher levels of cardiovascular disease and asthma.
Professor Stock’s calls echo those made by the Greens Party when they visited Collie in April last year to launch their plan to transition Collie from coal to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
Diversifying the mix of energy production in Collie has also been the focus of the state government, with the McGowan government committing $30 million for a biomass energy plant and a further $30 million for a solar energy plant.
The South West Development Commission also held an energy futures conference in June, which brought renewable energy experts to Collie to discuss the future of energy.