May 20, 2009 / 11:58 PM / 10 years ago

Green activists protest at Australia power plant

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Environmental activists have shut down a coal digger at an Australian power station that provides 8 percent of the country’s coal-reliant electricity market, to protest against government climate policies.

Greenpeace said the dawn protest on Thursday by around 14 activists at the Hazelwood Power Station in Victoria state was the latest part of an ongoing campaign to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions.

“Australia is digging itself into a hole. By phasing out coal and investing in renewable energy, we can protect our environment and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs,” said Greenpeace campaigner Simon Roz.

Hazelwood, in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, Victoria, is a brown coal fueled power station with a 1,600 megawatt capacity, and supplies up to 25 percent of the state’s base load electricity.

Hazelwood relies on brown coal deposits from the nearby Morwell open cut mine.

Majority owned by the UK-based company International Power and scheduled to be decommissioned by 2009 due to its excessive carbon dioxide emissions, the state government in 2005 extended its life until 2031.

Greenpeace said the station was one of the world’s most polluting, producing 19 million tons of greenhouse gases every year, equal to the total caused by all 1.4 million households in the state capital Melbourne.

Australia, the world’s biggest coal exporter, is responsible for about 1.5 percent of global carbon emissions, but is one of the highest per-capita polluters because of its reliance on coal for 80 percent of electricity needs.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recently delayed by a year the start of carbon emissions trading designed to cut the country’s greenhouse gas footprint, saying economic turmoil meant the regime would now begin in mid-2011.

Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Jonathan Standing

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