Replace Hazelwood: campaign takes off

Switch off Hazelwood rally, September 2009. Photo: Hazelwood2009/Flickr

Dozens of campaigners have hit Melbourne’s streets to campaign for the Hazelwood power station to be shut down. Climate action groups in the inner city are doorknocking thousands of homes every weekend to get the message across.

Hazelwood is Australia’s most polluting power station. Climate campaigners have targeted it with protests since the state government extended its operating licence until 2030. It was originally meant to be closed down and replaced in 2005.

“Our doorknocking has had a fantastic response from residents,” Damien Lawson from the Climate Action Centre (CAC) told Green Left Weekly. CAC has co-ordinated climate activists to doorknock every Saturday in the inner city electorates of Brunswick, Richmond and Northcote. These electorates are held by Labor, but vulnerable to the growing Greens vote.

Lawson said: “On average, we are knocking on the doors of 2000 houses each weekend. We have organised to do this every weekend for the next two months, and we hope to continue until the elections.”

The campaign is also planning a nationwide day of protests, with climate action groups around Australia targeting their local MPs on July 17.

Bill McKibben, the well-known US environmentalist who launched the 350.org campaign, has voiced his support for the replace Hazelwood campaign. Speaking to more than 100 activists at a meeting in Melbourne on May 25, he called for civil disobedience protests on October 10, the next international 350.org day of action.

Mark Wakeham, Environment Victoria (EV) campaigns director, told GLW the state government is looking at EV’s proposals, “but how seriously is anyone’s guess. Ideally the federal government will engage as well.”

EV has launched to profile the campaign, and has a billboard for the campaign in the inner city.

On May 17, EV released a report that outlines how to replace Hazelwood by 2012, with a mix of natural gas, renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. This would cut Victoria’s greenhouse pollution by 12% and creating hundreds more jobs, EV’s said.

Campaign group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) has also incorporated replacing Hazelwood with renewable energy into its Zero Carbon Australia plan, due to be released in mid July. BZE’s Matt Wright told GLW that under its plan, by December 2013 Hazelwood could be replaced by the first solar-thermal baseload power plants.

“The owner of the construction company Leighton Cobra, is already building these plants in Spain, and they are set up here. The technology is there, you just have to dial up the companies and they will roll it out.”