The closure of Victoria’s largest coal-fired power station in March, Hazelwood, was expected to unsettle the Latrobe Valley following decades of coal dependency. Instead, it transformed the region into a leading advocate for renewable energy; a shining example for other communities.
One pioneering community group is Voices of the Valley. It is advocating for community solar gardens, which local people would collectively design, build, own and benefit from. Each person would save money on their bills, while ensuring their electricity supply is stable and clean.
Latrobe City Council has also demonstrated leadership by setting up renewable energy information sessions and putting a 112-panel system on its headquarters.
The community sentiment has unquestionably shifted: from anger about the closure, to a unified understanding that coal is outdated. I have observed this while studying local newspapers in the Valley from the time the closure was announced until weeks after it occurred. Through unrelenting letters to the editor, locals have been screaming for a fresh start; not for coal to be re-introduced.
Local people backed by local organizations have ensured the Valley doesn’t remain in a state of dirty nostalgia. If a formely coal-dependant community is proactively campaigning for, and building, its own renewable energy projects then what excuse does anyone else have not to follow suit?
State governments understand this – and that’s why they’re also backing the move. The Victorian government has already set up some renewable energy community hubs, including in the Valley.
In fact, it’s only the federal government entertaining the possibility of new coal-fired power stations – outside of the coal industry. It’s way out of touch with communities who supply and use the energy.
Gene Efron is a Media & Communications Honours student at Monash University.
MEDIA RELEASE 13/04/2017
Andrews Government is helping Latrobe Valley look to the future.
Voices of the Valley welcomes the Andrews Government’s recent announcements to invest in the Latrobe Valley area, including establishing a Community Energy Hub, Upgrades to public housing, upgrades to Latrobe Regional Hospital, New Youth space, train station upgrades & extra carriages for the Latrobe Valley, and major sporting upgrades to boost the economics of the region as a major sporting hub.
“After the Hazelwood Mine Fire in 2014 the community felt they had been forgotten. Daniel Andrews made a commitment to the Latrobe Valley community that he would listen to the community, making a commitment that the Latrobe Valley would never be forgotten by his Government”, said Wendy Farmer, President of Voices of the Valley.
“Hazelwood’s closure has nothing to do with the Government. The cold hard fact is that the closure was a business decision made by Engie, an international company, whose priorities are to its shareholders and its bottom line. If you sell your car you can’t tell the new owner how to drive it. Victoria privatised our power generators, and opened them up to foreign ownership. Engie’s decision to close Hazelwood is simply how they wanted to drive their vehicle”, said Mrs Farmer.
“The Andrews Government have stood up for the Latrobe Valley region since is was elected by investing millions of dollars into our region, and have continued to demonstrate their commitment to us by creating jobs and hope in our region.This is a government that has listened to the Latrobe Valley community and continue to work with us”.
Wendy Farmer, President of Voices of the Valley: 0408 261 551
Voices of the Voices is a non-profit community organisation comprised of hundreds of Latrobe Valley residents seeking justice in relation to the impacts of the Hazelwood fire and ensuring the community has a Just Transition.
A transition centre where the community would "own its own future" has received a $20,000 funding boost to get off the ground.
Voices of the Valley's idea was named winner of VicHealth's Latrobe Valley Community Challenge - an initiative aimed at community groups driving jobs growth in the region.Read more
Original Express Article by 25 Jul 2016
'Idea' was the word in a community forum last week when more than 100 people discussed their aspirations for the future of the Latrobe Valley.
A transition centre, aged care hub and improved rail and transport access were among the most popular concepts attendees said were key to driving a prosperous region.Read more
Transition is as much about the community as it is about the technology.
That is the mantra Voices of the Valley's Ron Ipsen is using as the foundation of a proposed transition centre, which he hopes will help create a self-supporting Latrobe Valley.
"Any transition plan must take into account how you're going to deal with the social effects," Mr Ipsen said.Read more
Original Express Article by 27 Jun 2016
Prof John Catford
The new group tasked with planning for local health improvement and helping to appoint the Latrobe Valley Health Advocate is expected to be up and running by October, the State Government has revealed.
The establishment of the Latrobe Health Assembly is part of the State Government's response to the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry.
from Express article by 12 May 2016
It could be suggested that a grassroots plan for a post-coal future was heard in the corridors of State Government.
The announcement of a $40 million 'Hi-Tech' precinct in Morwell to diversify the region's economy into new industries is similar to a plan devised by advocacy group, Voices of the Valley.
Local Government opens up to the community for ideas for the future..Read more
News reports around between inquiries, VotV pushing for new Inquiry to cover health and deaths.