History of Coal

History of coal in the Latrobe Valley

1873 First recorded discovery of brown coal in the Latrobe valley.

1886 Henry Godridge and William Tulloch prospect local brown coal outcrops independently and apply for a mining lease. This leads to the establishment of the Great Morwell Coal Mining Company, which begins operating in 1889. The mining company produces about 2000 tonnes of briquettes, but cannot not complete with black coal, and the company winds up in 1899.

1901 Government geologist James Stirling travels to Germany and reports on the enormous expansion of brown coal use. He brings back technical details of briquette manufacture. He has a vision of the Latrobe Valley dotted with collieries and factories, and he urges that Victoria’s “magnificent beds” be exploited.

1921 In 1921, legislation is passed creating “The State Electricity Commission of Victoria (S.E.C.V.)”. As a statutory corporation, it has the responsibility to generate and distribute electricity; to own and operate brown coal open cuts and briquette works; and to undertake ancillary functions.

1921 In February 1921, under the watchful eyes of Electricity Commissioners, horse drawn ploughs turn the first sod on the site of the first permanent Yallourn A power station. Then in April 1921, teams of men, horses and drays and later steam shovels begin clearing the soil to uncover the coal.

1924 Three years and two months later, on June 24, 1924, power begins flowing down the transmission lines to Melbourne.

1928 By 1928 the Yallourn A power station has an output of 75 megawatts.

1929 After a decade of progress, the SEC’s generating stations now have an aggregated capacity of 154,400 kW, enough to meet supply requirements for up to two years. 325 km of underground cable (mostly for Melbourne’s distribution system), along with 2500 kilometres of high-tension transmission lines, have been erected throughout Victoria. The SEC supplies nearly all of metropolitan Melbourne, as well as 141 country towns and centres.

1939 The SEC supplies 4,376 farms with electricity, compared with 411 farms in 1929. However, World War II places urgent demands for fuel and power, and demand rises 70% during the war. Because of reduced availability of black coal from both NSW and overseas, Victoria assists industry and other states which had, until now, relied upon NSW coal.

1944 A devastating bushfire spreads to the Yallourn open cut mine, causing further restrictions upon the use of coal. For example, homeowners are only permitted to buy coal for the purpose of heating water.

1949 Black coal is no longer available to Victoria, which means the SEC cannot retain its full production of briquettes. This causes restrictions the use of electricity, which were not lifted until 1953.

1960 Morwell power and fuel project completed.

1964 Hazelwood is proposed to join the grid. It is envisaged as a 1200 MW complex but ultimately contains eight 200 MW units (1600MW).

1968 – Work begins on the new Yallourn W power station, while the decision is made to close the aging Yallourn A power station.

1973 – Yallourn W’s first unit is completed, and the last of its four units are put into operation in November 1981. Yallourn W has a generating capacity of 1450 MW.
In December the SEC announces plans for the giant Loy Yang Power Station project. This was to contain four 500 MW units.

1982 – Production begins at the Loy Yang open-cut mine in October.

1984 – The first generating unit at Loy Yang A power station was officially opened in September 1984.

1985 – Construction begins on Loy Yang B‟s two 500 MW units. However, in an attempt to reduce debt, the State Government decides to privatise power stations.

1993 – Loy Yang B is the first to be partially sold and is officially opened in 1993, under the flagship of new owner Mission Energy. Yallourn, Hazelwood, and Loy Yang are subsequently privatised. Each of these companies now sells electricity to the National Electricity Market. The distribution and transmission networks have also been privatised.

1994 – PowerWorks is officially opened.

2012 – PowerWorks closed their doors to the public.

2013 – Six community members came together and formed PowerWorks Holdings Ltd, a community based not–for-profit social enterprise.

2015 – PowerWorks Holdings Ltd successfully negotiated with the owners of the PowerWorks Visitor Information/Energy Education Centre for the property to be generously donated for on-going community use. On the 26th March 2015 PowerWorks Holdings Ltd took possession of the PowerWorks Visitor Information/Energy Education Centre and surrounding land.