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Portland Smelter seeks additional funding


Source: The Age, 20 December 2016

Any plans for further subsidies for another power station to help keep the struggling Portland aluminium smelter open will add to the $100 million-plus Victorians are already providing Alcoa, the operator of the works.

Already AGL, which supplies electricity to the smelter, has warned of the potential loss of contracts to supply the works from August 2017, highlighting the uncertainty over the smelter's continued operation.

Ausnet Services, which operates the power link to Portland, has won provisional approval from the regulator, the Australian Energy Regulator, for the continued payment of the annual $114.3 million easement tax, which is added to the bill of all Victorian power users.

Its latest five-year spending plan put forward by electricity transmission network operator Ausnet includes a continuation of the annual land easement tax until 2021-22. This subsidy has existed in various forms for at least two decades. An earlier smelter levy was ruled unconstitutional, which forced the then Bracks state government to convert the levy to an easement tax, which is levied on the owner of the high-voltage power network, Ausnet Services.

"So in addition to any other incentives the Victorian and Australian governments offer Alcoa to remain operating at Portland, this $114.3 million should not be overlooked," says David Headberry of the Major Energy Users Network. "I'm not saying it shouldn't happen, but it is being conveniently glossed over.

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