DRIVING INTO MORWELL, on the long highway from Melbourne, the first things you see are the smokestacks of the Yallourn Power Station. On a grey overcast morning the thick smoke coming out mingles in the air with the clouds and is almost indistinguishable. This is, or was, coal country.
The greater Latrobe Valley region and the brown coal dug up here has underpinned Melbourne and Victoria’s energy supply for a century. The region underwent a devastating ‘transition’ in the late 1980s and 1990s when the state’s electricity production was privatised and thousands of workers were laid off. Many simply left the region for good and for those left behind unemployment soared. Today there is another transition taking place as the state – and the nation – moves away from the pollution generated by fossil fuels towards cleaner renewable energy. Despite federal government inaction and feet-dragging in terms of setting a net-zero emissions target, the state of Victoria – along with other states and territories around the country – has set the goal of meeting net-zero emissions by 2050. Victoria has also set a number of shorter term emission-reduction goals, with dirty brown coal-fired power stations likely to be phased out much sooner.
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