The Victorian government has declared a state energy emergency after the Yallourn power station and coal mine, in the Latrobe Valley, was damaged in recent flooding. Key points: The Yallourn power station supplies more than a fifth of the state’s energy The declaration will allow Energy Australia to undertake emergency works and divert river water away from the mine The state government has announced a new payment for households still cut off from power Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said significant cracks identified in the mine had put it at risk of flooding, and “the impact of that would be significant”.
“We need to take swift action, and the best way to take swift action is declaring this energy emergency,” Ms D’Ambrosio said. The Yallourn power station supplies more than a fifth of Victoria’s energy. The government says the Australian Energy Market Operator has given it assurances there is still sufficient supply of power to meet the state’s needs.
The declaration will allow Energy Australia to undertake emergency works, without going through normal planning and regulatory approvals, and divert river water away from the mine, relieving water pressure on the mine walls. In 2012, the Latrobe River entered the mine, shutting it for weeks. Floodwaters enters Yallourn mine in 2012. In 2012, floodwaters swamped the Yallourn open cut coal mine for more than two weeks, reducing electricity output.(Supplied) The flooding of the mine hit last week when storms with gusts of over 100 kilometres per hour and heavy rain pummelled parts of eastern Melbourne and Victoria.
It led to widespread black-outs, trees falling onto and destroying homes, and flooding that claimed the lives of two people. About 7,000 households are still without power, and 3,000 of them have been told to prepare to be off supply until July 10. It has prompted the Victorian government to offer a new payment of up to $1,680 per week for households still cut off as of Thursday. Acting Premier James Merlino said thousands of households being without power in “the depths of winter” was “an unprecedented emergency” and current disaster recovery funding arrangements did not cover the situation the state was in.
“In terms of households without power, the current disaster arrangements between the state and federal government do not cover that, so we’re announcing a prolonged power outage payment,” Mr Merlino said. “I live up here and lived in this region my whole life and I’ve never seen the extent of damage that’s here in the Dandenong Ranges. “It is tree carnage.” Mr Merlino said he had also asked the federal government to go 50-50 with the Victorian government on a second co-payment for residents without power. In addition to the payment, Mr Merlino said Bushfire Recovery Victoria would take the lead to coordinate the clean-up and recovery throughout the state which was “beyond the reach of any local government”.
“We have tree debris that would fill the MCG here in the Dandenongs. We need to get all of that support coordinated.” The Victorian government has also requested the support of the Australian Defence Force for logistics and planning support initially, and on-the-ground assistance later down the track. A woman fills up a watering can with water from a tank. Residents of Kallista, Sherbrooke and The Patch are using emergency water supplies after being advised not to drink tap water until further notice.
(ABC News: Tahlea Aualiitia) Concerns over why Yallourn hit with more trouble Environment Victoria said it supported the government’s energy emergency but warned it needed to consider the risk of groundwater contamination if it diverted the Morwell River towards the Hazelwood mine pit. The charity’s campaigns manager Nicholas Aberle said covering the coal ash in the mine pit with water could “exacerbate” the situation. He said the pit “contained toxic coal ash that had already been polluting groundwater for the last 15 years.
” Dr Aberle said that after the threat had subsided, questions needed to be asked about why Victoria was facing another mine stability problem at Yallourn. “Has Energy Australia been properly maintaining the embankment? Was it fixed properly after the 2012 collapse? Was it designed to withstand a one-in-100 year flood event?” Dr Aberle said. ‘We are going to have to rebuild the majority of the network’ AusNet Services apologised for drastically underestimating the extent of damage from last week’s storms and said it was working as fast as possible to rebuild the network.
Steve Brown, spokesperson for AusNet Services, told ABC Radio Melbourne that crews were not aware of the scale of the storm’s damage until Monday when they assessed areas they had previously been unable to reach. “Our engineers have analysed that and came to the unfortunate conclusion that we are going to have to rebuild the majority of the network in and around Mount Dandenong because the damage is so extensive,” Mr Brown said. “It’s going to take us several weeks to get that done.
” Mr Brown said AusNet had tried to keep people as informed as possible, based on the information it had at the time. Customers were originally told power would be restored this week. “We are incredibly sorry about getting the information wrong. “The job is the biggest job our network has ever had to manage,” he said. AusNet has provided large generators to central areas to power essential services and schools. Steven Neave, executive general manager of AusNet Services said there was “no network left” and some sections would be built underground for the first time.
Arborists are assessing the health of trees to make sure the new network being built will not be damaged if more trees fall, which could happen this weekend with strong winds forecast. Southerly low heading for Victoria Senior meteorologist for the Bureau of Meteorology Kevin Parkyn said another Tasman Sea low — similar to last week’s system — was expected in Victoria on Friday, “but nowhere near the extremities we saw last week”, he said.
Southerly winds are forecast between 30kph and 50kph, peaking at 60kph through the central highlights, Alpine Region, and East Gippsland. In comparison, last week’s storm brought winds of up to 120kph to some areas. Between 25 millimetres and 60mm of rain is also forecast with the heaviest falls expected in East Gippsland. West and south Gippsland can expect up to 10mm of rain — far less than the 200mm that hit last week. “Those rainfall totals are likely to see rivers rise in the Cann, Genoa and Bemm rivers,” Mr Parkyn said. There is a flood watch in place for those rivers with minor flooding expected.