Union workers at Eraring Power Station call for National Energy Transition Authority

On the eve of the closure of Muswellbrook’s Liddell Power Station, over 150 workers, community members, and elected union officials gathered outside the Eraring Power Station, near Lake Macquarie in NSW to urge the federal government to establish a National Energy Transition Authority in the May budget.

ETU acting National Secretary, Michael Wright, said a transition authority was beyond overdue.

“The transition to renewable energy is not some distant, hypothetical event. It is happening now and workers and their communities are shouldering the burden,” he said.

The authority would coordinate across governments, departments, industry and communities to make sure no worker or community is left behind in the nation’s energy transition to net zero. In the last decade, eleven coal fired power stations have closed with an average notice period of just four months, leaving workers and communities devastated.

An authority would help plan and co-ordinate the investment of billions of dollars to create new industries and better jobs.

“When a massive mine or power station closes it has to remediate the environmental mess it leaves but it has no real obligation to fix the social impact of its closure. That must change,” said Michael.

“This is a basic issue of justice. The fact you happen to work in an emitting industry should not mean you wear the cost of a global shift by losing your livelihood and your community.

The event highlighted the urgency of the issue in the Newcastle and Hunter Region of NSW where Eraring Power Station is one of the next high-carbon facilities slated for closure in 2025. A similar challenge is facing workers in Collie, Western Australia. Last week workers at Muja Power station spoke to Federal Energy Minster Chris Bowen about the need for an ETA to ensure their community is not devastated by the closure of the Muja Power Station in 2029.  

ETU WA apprentice Wade is a third-year electrical apprentice at Muja Power station.

Wade recently spoke to federal politicians in Canberra about how his hometown of Collie will be devastated by the closure, and the lack of opportunities for apprentices like him to re-skill and retrain for a renewable future. State and company funds allocated for workers to assist with the transition to renewable energy industries are not available for apprentices in his area, and there is no sign of a renewable training centre yet in WA.

“If we had places where we can actually train for the jobs of the future, so that apprentices can see they have a future in the industry, then we can start to address poor completion rates,” said Wade.

The ETU is hopeful of good news from a receptive government in the coming Budget. Our Union will relentlessly advocate for all of our members to make sure the transition to renewable energy is an opportunity, not a cost.

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This article was publised on 26 April 2023.