Australia’s dirtiest coal plant closes, energy crisis deepens – by Sonali Paul (Reuters U.S. – March 30, 2017)

HAZELWOOD, AUSTRALIA – The doors to Australia’s dirtiest power station will close permanently on Friday after 50 years, amping up pressure on a government desperate to avoid the kind of embarrassing blackouts that hit chunks of the country during a recent savage heatwave.

France’s Engie SA is pulling the plug on the Hazelwood coal-fired power plant near Melbourne, cutting around a fifth of the state of Victoria’s energy supply, blaming the “huge” costs of running the aged facility amid rising competition from subsidized wind and solar energy.

With other shutdowns of fossil fuel stations potentially following down the line, the move highlights the challenges facing Canberra as it fights to balance long-term green ambitions with the need to provide affordable power.

“If the lights go out, it would be nasty,” said Tony Wood, energy program director at independent think tank the Grattan Institute. “There’s just such a level of political and community concern that (politicians) should be nervous.”

Growth in electricity demand and a drop in supply since 2014 have strained the Australian grid. South Australia was roiled by a state-wide blackout last September, which crippled industry for up to two weeks, while the eastern states suffered six power cuts over the past summer.

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