Hazelwood – Australia’s dirtiest power

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Hazelwood power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley has long been recognised as the dirtiest power plant in the country, and one of the least efficient in the world. Burning brown coal from its adjacent mine, Hazelwood emits more carbon per unit of energy produced than almost any other power station operating today. This single source accounts for around 3% of Australia’s total annual carbon emissions, and almost 15% of Victoria’s.

On top of the massive climate costs, the toxic pollution produced by burning coal was highlighted when the Hazelwood mine caught fire and burned for more than six weeks in 2014, engulfing the area in toxic smoke that most likely contributed to an increase in local deaths.

Hazelwood has enjoyed a lot of support from both Australian and foreign banks in recent years. The table below shows all bank lending to Hazelwood since 2008. You’ll recognise – and maybe even even bank with – some of them.

Hazelwood Power Station
Credit: Greenpeace / Hunt

BankTotal loaned (AU$millions)Number of deals
ANZ$3793
Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ$2152
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation$1581
Royal Bank of Scotland$1251
BNP Paribas$801
Société Générale$781
WestLB$751
CommBank$711
Bank of Scotland$631
Crédit Agricole$631
Westpac$541
NordLB$491
DBS Bank$381
Dexia$381
Bank of America$351
United Overseas Bank$271
Crédit Industriel et Commercial$211
WestLB (now Portigon Financial Services)$191

Proudly supported by ANZ

Having been designed and commissioned in the 1960’s, this brown coal dinosaur should have been shut down years ago. But with the help of over $1.5 billion worth of loans since 2008, Hazelwood has been allowed to continue to pollute our air and drive climate change.

Westpac and CommBank have loaned $50m and $70m respectively, but ANZ is by far the biggest financial backer, having provided over $400 million worth of loans. The latest ANZ loan came just months after the toxic 2014 fire. Valued at $300m, this loan is due to expire in June.

ANZ now faces an important decision: will they choose to continue to support Australia’s dirtiest power, or will they cut the dirty credit to Hazelwood?

Where to from here?

Hazelwood’s French owners Engie (also known as GDF Suez in Australia) are considering closing or selling the plant as part of their plans to exit coal.

On May 25, new Engie chief executive Isabelle Kocher said, “For the Hazelwood plant, we are studying all possible scenarios, including closure, or a sale if the state of Victoria tells us that it cannot meet power generating needs without this plant.”

We are now at a critical point in the fight to close down one of the world’s dirtiest power stations. The banks have the power to prolong the life of this outdated pollution factory by refinancing while Engie looks for a buyer, or lending to another company to enable them to purchase Hazelwood. As the major supporter to date, ANZ appears the most likely to be involved in any deal. We need them to know that any decision that helps Hazelwood continue operating will be met with massive public backlash, including customers publicly closing their accounts.

If you bank with ANZ, click here to tell them if they choose to support Hazelwood, you’ll choose another bank.

Fire no deterrent

For 45 days during February and March 2014 the Hazelwood coal mine was on fire, the open pit having been ignited by bushfire embers. The fire spewed toxic smoke that engulfed the nearby town of Morwell, where particulate pollution was clocked at over twenty times times the safe limit.

Damningly, an inquiry into the fire has linked it to a spike in deaths in the area. French owners Engie are facing a myriad of charges from both Worksafe and the EPA over the toxic fire.

And yet, just a few months later ANZ chipped in a massive $300m to a refinancing deal that enabled Hazelwood to continue operating. CommBank also contributed $72m to that deal.

Hazelwood coal mine fire, February 2014
Credit: CFA Communities & Communication