Across the world coal-fired power plants are being shut down as we race to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change. But what does their closure mean for the people whose livelihoods depend on them? A compassionate, supportive approach will make all the difference.
The site of the Yallourn power station, located in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, has been keeping the lights on for millions of homes and businesses across the state for over a century.
In 2021 EnergyAustralia announced that the power station would close in 2028. Right from the start our focus has been on Yallourn’s people and making sure the transition is as smooth as possible for them.
On the day the closure was announced, we launched a $10 million program called Power Your Future – the first of its kind in the energy sector to provide transition support to workers more than five years before closure.
A 44-page handbook has been given to over 500 Yallourn employees covering a range of services to help them look for other jobs, retire, or set themselves up in business. The program offers personalised career planning, training support, and individual career coaching.
One-to-one discussions are being held with employees to identify their needs and future aspirations while training courses and workshops are arranged to give them the necessary skills to adjust to the transition. The program also offers retirement and self-employment planning to ensure everyone can access the support they need.
In addition, financial advice and funding support to seed small businesses are available with the aim of providing long-term benefits to the wider Latrobe Valley community.
For Yallourn’s people, having a support network and people to talk to are crucial elements in coping with change. Employees are encouraged to speak to their team leaders or the Yallourn Transition Team. Plus, our people and their families can access confidential counselling support at any time through our employee assistance program.
Steve Dargan, a principal electrical engineer for EnergyAustralia, says a good transition plan gives people the opportunity to work out what they really want to do and get the right training and skills to succeed.
“There's a whole heap of opportunities on the electricity side,” he says.
“The generation system has to renew itself as we transition out of fossil fuels into greener sources of power. There's a huge amount of energy that has to be generated and that needs wires and generation sources, and people have to build them.”
Tash Agafonoff joined Yallourn as an assistant unit controller five years ago and worked her way up to become a unit controller. She believes having an open mind is key to adapting to changes in the workplace.
“I think it's a bit more daunting for someone if you've sort of worked in one type of area for your whole entire life. I’m quite open to all sorts of different options,” she says.
The priority for Yallourn’s maintenance leader, Chris Kyriacou, is to lead his team through the transition.
“I'm really content with how we're handling it, and I just want to support more people through it,” he says.
A good transition plan should work for people at all different stages, he believes.
“There are apprentices who are starting now and who will hopefully learn their trade before the closure. We also have people who may decide to seek different career opportunities and we can support them through that too.
“I've been fortunate, and doors are always open for me. I have no doubt that in 2028 or beyond, another door will open for me and I'll embrace it.”
EnergyAustralia managing director, Mark Collette, says the company is committed to coal-fired power exiting the market in a responsible way that supports its people, customers, and the community.
“The program supports any worker who calls Yallourn home, including contractors, with services to plan, prepare and train for the future.
“We are doing this so the people of Yallourn have time to get ready for the closure while creating links to new employment before it occurs. This will, we believe, allow for a smooth transition.”
As well as looking after people as coal-fired power stations retire, EnergyAustralia is also building the energy generation of the future. Read more here: New energy projects | EnergyAustralia