After a two-and-a-half year community campaign, the Andrews government announced Victorian Renewable Energy Targets of 25 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2025. Community groups, unions, industry, and renewable energy companies welcomed the initiative.
Leadership from the states has been critical to prevent the renewable energy sector from dying on the vine. The damage done by the federal Coalition government since 2013 has resulted in a 90 percent decrease in investment in renewables and over 2,500 people losing their jobs.
The Andrews government’s announcement of ambitious and achievable VRETs on June 15 will remedy the sectors ills. The state targets will be enshrined in legislation and will use competitive reverse auctions to rollout the development of renewables (more info).
A clean and modernised electricity sector is good for jobs, investment, and our climate. It’s the type of outcome that all political parties can support. Unfortunately, comments by the opposition spokesperson for renewable energy in the Victorian Parliament indicate the party is taking a negative view of the initiative (Hansard).
Mr David Southwick (Caulfield) — The Premier is so desperate to distract from his war on Country Fire Authority volunteers that he is hiking up the cost of living to Victorian families already struggling to make ends meet. His government’s renewable energy target will jack up electricity bills by at least $65 million a year. We all agree that renewables can play an important part of future energy generation, but Victoria needs a carefully considered transition plan. The Premier is playing a dangerous game and risks shutting down the Latrobe Valley, losing tens of thousands of jobs, jacking up power bills and harming Victorian households and small business without a proper transition plan.
Victoria is part of the national renewable energy target scheme, and the Premier has provided zero detail on how the state will go it alone to achieve a Victorian renewable energy target of 40 per cent by 2025.
How many jobs will be lost in the process? The premature announcement is accelerating the uncertainty in the Latrobe Valley, which supplies almost 90 per cent of the electricity in the state and employs thousands of people. We have heard from the Macquarie Group, which has suggested that the Hazelwood and Yallourn power stations would close if the Premier were to meet his 40 per cent target by 2040. Ian Myles of the Macquarie Group wrote in a research note:
To achieve a 25 per cent target … simply Hazelwood needs to shut …
All we are seeing from the government are reckless announcements when it comes to jobs, power bills and the cost of living. We need more than spin. We need details of a real plan.
Here’s Yes 2 Renewables‘ response to the shadow minister’s comments:
* Investment in renewable energy will pay dividends to Victorians. The scheme will create a $2.5 billion investment opportunity and create 10,000 jobs across the state. The initiative will boost manufacturing in Glen Waverley, Tottenham, Geelong, Benalla, and Portland.
Not only that, the VRETs are good news for public health in the Latrobe Valley and for tackling climate change. The scheme will help clean up and modernise the electricity sector, cutting carbon emissions by 18 million tonnes a year. A 12 percent cut in emissions from the power sector is expected by 2034-35.
* Following the ACT’s lead, the Andrews government will use a competitive auction process to rollout renewables. The ACT’s reverse auctions have delivered the cheapest renewable energy prices to date. And research shows that increased renewable energy capacity will put downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices (via the ‘merit order effect‘).
The Andrews government will consult with the renewable energy industry, electricity networks and retailers, and consumer groups to refine details of the scheme. Auctions are expected to commence in early 2017.
* Victoria’s 2020 Renewable Energy Target will be complementary to the national scheme. The 2025 target will be additional as the national target reaches its ceiling in 2020.
How will the state scheme work along side the national RET? Federal environment minister Greg Hunt takes a favourable view of the reverse auctions the Andrews government intends to use. In fact, Mr Hunt recommends state governments adopt the measure to grow renewables:
“I have encouraged the states that if they want to do something extra,” Hunt told Renew Economy, “(they should) apply reverse auctions to the renewable energy target in the way the Australian Capital Territory has done.”
* Competitive pressure in the electricity market from new renewable energy capacity will expedite the closure of polluting coal power plants–and that’s a good thing.
The most polluting coal plant in the developed world, Hazelwood, has operated way past its expected operating life. Harvard University estimate the public health impact of the plant at $900 million per year. Then there’s the unquantifiable impact on climate change to consider.
The phase out of coal and transition plans for coal communities are now the priority of state energy policy. Victorian Renewable Energy Targets, Victorian Climate Change Act, and $40 million transition fund are important parts of the jigsaw; a detailed coal policy is the missing piece.
The government also needs to release it’s long awaited gas policy, which we hope will lock in a permanent ban on all onshore gas drilling. Now’s the time for all parties to get serious on climate and fossil fuel policy.
Yes 2 Renewables believe the opposition should support the Victorian Renewable Energy Targets after giving the proposal due consideration. It’s our hope that David Southwick’s actions live up to his comments at the Ban Gasfields + Grow Renewables rally on the steps of Parliament in February.
By supporting the VRETs, the opposition leader Matthew Guy and shadow David Southwick would join John Hewson and Senator Peter Rae as renewable energy champions in the Liberal party’s ranks.
In any case, Yes 2 Renewables will be keeping a watchful eye on the Victorian Parliament and the passage of VRET legislation.