Victoria’s energy system is transitioning away from polluting coal and gas towards clean renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. This shift is essential to rein in polluting greenhouse emissions that are driving the climate crisis.
To guide the transition Victoria has set a renewable energy target of 50% by 2030. Reaching that target is expected to create 10,000 jobs, and predicted to reduce ~200 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector by 2049-2050.
Wind and solar are jobs creators
As of 2019, large-scale renewable energy projects were supporting the employment of almost 22,000 people across Australia, with an additional 8,580 people employed in the rooftop solar market. According to Green Energy Markets, Victoria leads the country in employment, with over 9,600 people employed across the large and small scale renewables sectors.
These jobs vary – from work in manufacturing, construction, operations and maintenance, logistics, engineering and more.
For example, Victoria is home to Australia’s largest wind tower manufacturing facility, Keppel Prince in Portland. The manufacturer is the second largest employer in the town, employing a total 350 staff.
In Geelong, the former Ford factory has recently been converted into a renewable energy plant, assembling wind turbine hubs. And Federation University in Ballarat is now offering training for wind technicians, providing a pathway for tradespeople to enter the sector.
Wind and solar farms are compatible with agricultural uses of land and are a source of drought-proof income for regional communities. This comes in the form of landholder royalties, council rates, community benefit funds or local benefit sharing schemes that offer shares in the project to local community members. For example, the Ararat wind farm is the largest ratepayer to the Ararat council. Wind farms typically have an operating lifespan of twenty-five years, meaning these benefits continue to flow to regional communities every year.
Building more renewable energy means cheaper power
Wind and solar power are now the cheapest forms of new generation. This was confirmed in a report by the CSIRO and Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), and has been backed up by numerous studies by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the International Renewable Energy Agency that costs continue to fall.
Combined with the cost reductions in renewable energy and the simple laws of supply and demand, building new renewable energy sources puts downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices.
This was confirmed by the Victorian Energy Policy Centre’s extensive analysis of South Australia’s wholesale electricity prices from 2013 – 2018.
Renewable energy is a mature technology. In the financial year 2018-2019, renewable energy sources produced more electricity in Australia than brown coal for the first time.
What’s really pushing up power prices?
Australia’s privatised electricity market is complex. Prices are determined by the interaction of the wholesale generation market, distribution and retail sector. A 2019 report by the Victorian Energy Policy Centre found evidence that big power companies including AGL, Energy Australia and Origin have engaged in price gouging.
Author of the research Dr Bruce Mountain said consumers “are paying roughly $200 more than they should and that’s ongoing.”
Wind farms are quiet
Wind farms built in Australia must be built to meet strict noise regulations. According to the Environment Protection Agency Victoria, sound from wind farms is lower than that from many other sources:
Renewable energy is a popular way to produce electricity
Support for wind and solar power continues to grow, with several polls conducted over a number of years consistently demonstrating that the public overwhelmingly supports renewable energy.
In 2019, A Lowy Insitute Poll found that 84% people of people agreed with the statement “The government should focus on renewables, even if this means we may need to invest more in transmission to make the system more reliable.”
In March 2017, an EssentialPoll of 1,420 people commissioned by the Australia Institute found that:
- 67% said Australia was moving into renewable energy too slowly, including 35% saying much too slowly. Only 9% said Australia was moving too fast.
- 77% of Australians support a state renewable energy target to provide extra renewable energy in their state, including 35% strongly supporting.
In September 2017, research by Sustainability Victoria found that the Victorian community is very supportive of action on climate change and renewable energy, and 75% would support wind farms being built in their area to provide renewable energy.
Renewable energy saves water
Every drop of water is precious. Unlike thermal generators that burn coal and gas, solar photovoltaics and mechanical generators like wind power use virtually no water to produce electricity.
Wind farms have a clean bill of health
More than 17 independent and peer-reviewed studies have shown wind turbines are clean and safe. Australia’s authority on public health research, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), has said: “After careful consideration and deliberation of the body of evidence, NHMRC concludes there is currently no consistent evidence that wind farms cause adverse health effects in humans”.
Professor Simon Chapman and academic Fiona Crichton identify anti-wind fear mongering as the cause of ill health effects rather than turbines. You can read more about the ‘Nocebo’ effect here.
Want to learn more and get involved?
Friends of the Earth’s Yes 2 Renewables collective campaigns for 100% Renewable Energy, Good Jobs, and Climate Justice.
To get more involved please get in contact with Yes 2 Renewables Community Coordinator Pat Simons by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
We meet regularly every Tuesday, 6PM at Friends of the Earth Melbourne 312 Smith Street Collingwood.