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Victoria Renewable Energy Target written into law, without support of LNP

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Image: Rob Law, Twitter @RobLawCVGA

Victoria has become the first state in Australia to have its renewable energy target written into law, after the Labor Andrews government’s Renewable Energy (Jobs & Investment) Bill was passed by Parliament on Friday.

State energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said on Friday the governments’ VRET of 25 per cent renewable energy by 2020, and 40 per cent by 2025, had passed the Legislative Council with 20 votes to 18, and despite not winning a single vote from the opposition Coalition party.

The “historic” vote comes amid growing confusion and concern about what the federal Coaltion’s National Energy Guarantee means for Australia’s energy sector, and particularly for the renewable energy industry, with no national renewable energy target in place beyond 2020, and the suggestion development could go backwards under the new plan, resulting in just 28-36 per cent renewables by 2030.

The state governments, in particular, have reacted with frustration to the NEG, which – as Giles Parkinson pointed out here on Friday – is a decision by the Turnbull government to essentially rely on the same state-based renewables targets it has so often derided as reckless.

All of Australia’s Labor states and territories have their own renewable energy targets, each of them more ambitious than the federal government’s goal of 20 per cent by 2020.

Queensland and the Northern Territory are aiming for 50 per cent by 2030; South Australia is already there but looking to add more; while the ACT has already signed contracts with wind and solar farms to take it to 100 per cent renewables by 2020.

Victoria’s own target, now legislated, is expected to cut the average cost of power for households by around $30 a year; $2,500 a year for medium businesses and $140,000 a year for large companies. It is also forecast to drive a 16 per cent reduction in the state’s electricity sector emissions by 2034-35, and create up to 11,000 jobs.

Despite these projected benefits, the state targets have been used regularly by the federal government as scapegoats for rising electricity prices and the closure of ageing coal plants – an irony that is not lost on the states, particularly considering the federal Coalition needs their approval for the NEG to be put into place, because it requires significant changes to the National Electricity Market rules.

“Renewable energy creates jobs and will help drive down power prices for Victorian households and businesses,” said D’Ambrosio, in a statement on Friday.

“These legislated targets remain the one constant for renewable energy investor confidence in Australia and the message is clear — Victoria is open for business.”

 The Clean Energy Council was quick to welcome the news, and said the VRET would provide major investment opportunities for the state into the next decade.

“The VRET provides a green light for our industry to deliver cheap, clean and reliable energy for all Victorians,” said CEC CEO Kane Thornton on Friday.

“The easiest way to reduce power prices is through clear policy and more power generation. The VRET delivers on both these fronts and the Victorian Renewable Energy Auction Scheme will kick off in just a few weeks to deliver up to 650MW of new renewable energy projects.”

Green groups also welcomed the passage of the VRET, particularly in light of policy developments in Canberra.

 


“In a week when the federal government has been playing politics with our climate, this vote signals that Victoria is getting on with the job of repowering our state with clean energy,” said Environment Victoria CEO Mark Wakeham.

But Wakeham also expressed his concern that the state Coalition appeared to be in lock-step with its federal counterpart, and had threatened to scrap the legislation if elected next year.

“It is deeply disappointing that Matthew Guy’s Coalition is again denying Victorians lower power prices, clean energy and jobs and investment across the state,” he said.

“This week’s antics in Parliament suggest that the recent track record of Coalition attacks on our environment will continue through to next year’s state election. In the past 12 months, Matthew Guy’s Coalition has voted against a new Climate Change Act, voted against encouraging more rooftop solar, and now voted against large-scale renewable energy – the cheapest and cleanest form of new electricity.

“Victorians are sick and tired of Coalition energy wars. We’re ready to embrace a booming renewable energy industry that cuts prices and pollution. If the Coalition wish to remain relevant to Victorian voters then they need to get on board with Victoria’s clean energy future,” Wakeham said.

The state Coalition party, meanwhile, continues to oppose the renewables target, which opposition leader Matthew Guy has repeatedly described as “Daniel Andrews’ reckless, go-it-alone VRET.”

And while the LNP appears to have made little comment about Friday’s passage of the Bill, it has previously vowed to have it scrapped if successful in next year’s state election.

“This is a bill which is about making life harder for ordinary Victorians, because we have to understand the human cost of the moral and political vanity that is contained within this bill,” said shadow Treasurer Michael O’Brien in Parliament late last month.

“Labor and the Greens say, ‘This is fantastic. Let’s go back to the Stone Age. Let’s try to get rid of electricity. It’s far better for people to feel the moral pain of paying higher bills, because that saves the planet somehow’ — what utter garbage,” O’Brien said.

“This is why this is a bad bill. It is why we will not only oppose it but, if this has the misfortune of passing this Parliament, we will repeal it.”

Friends of the Earth – which has been one of the key drivers of the VRET Bill – was also critical of Guy’s opposition, and said it ignored that renewables enjoyed strong support among Liberal party voters.

“In 2017, it’s unacceptable for politicians to vote against policies to tackle climate change,” said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth’s climate change spokesperson.

“With unprecedented bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and parts of Victoria experiencing a record dry June, now’s not the time to be blocking action on climate change.”

“Victorians will remember the opposition’s vote against renewable energy jobs and cheaper power when they go to the polls in 2018.”

  

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  • solarguy

    Some good news for a change. Well done Victoria.

    • Ken Dyer

      Indeed well done. But I also think that they could have done better and I hope that the target is revised upward again, after they attend to sorting out the people of the Latrobe Valley.

      Victoria has 3 brown coal power stations there (Loy YangA, Loy YangB and
      Yallourn) comprising 12 generating units, all over 30 years old, that
      together total 4530 megawatts capacity.

      If the response to a recent clean energy auction in Queensland that received more than 8000 MW in bids is any indication, replacing every brown coal generator in Victoria could be accomplished right now.

      The only thing holding a higher target back is preparing the Latrobe Valley communities for the inevitability of the clean power technology disruption that is happening, how it will affect their lives, and how the transition to clean power can be accomplished without affecting supply.

      • Richard

        A big off shore wind industry connected to pumped hydro in Gippsland could be a game changer down there. It would help them to stay in the energy game. All the big power lines come from down there, so the infrastructure is already in place.

        • Ken Dyer

          Yes Richard you are right, if you wanted to maintain the incredible power line network that came about only because of the brown coal deposits.
          You can put solar anywhere closer to the end user and wind too, particularly along the coast. The big risk of course is all those gold plated networks will become stranded assets as the energy providers de-centralise.
          Lots of technology disruption.

          • Richard

            Gippsland is not that far from Melbourne and the lines are already there. Maybe with a Tassie connection too. The price for offshore wind will probably have to drop first and I don’t know how good the wind resource is off Gippsland.
            I guess private industry will sort out the best options, but politically it would make sense to build a lot of renewable energy down there.

  • George Darroch

    “Labor and the Greens say, ‘This is fantastic. Let’s go back to the Stone Age.”

    It unbelievable how deficient the Liberal Party (at every level; state, federal, local) are. They stand for the opposite of innovation and science. They’re troglodytes.

  • GlennM

    A Dumb question from a non Aussie…
    what is the likelihood of changes in power in SA, VIC etc next year ?

    • Rob G

      From what I know VIC I pretty solid Labor. It is a progressive state and only goes Liberal rarely. SA, Weatherill is back in positive territory – only concern is party fatigue in the public eye. He’s been working pretty hard to visibly improve the state – new hospital… job incentives and job generation. He looks strong when dealing with the backwards Federal Libs (they may have helped him). Only thing he’d be concerned about is Nick Xenophon – some polls say he will take a large share of voters from them – but they are mostly right wing voters (Nick is Liberal lite). QLD Labor is ahead 55% to 45% – seems nobody likes Liberals there. The One Nation vote is getting quite big and might be a real headache for both the major parties. One Nation is a coal loving party – they don’t trust renewables (I’m guessing many of their voters have rooftop solar so being against that could backfire on them)

      • RobertO

        Hi Rob G, the other issue with QLD is Anna P (Labour Premier) is a support of the Adani Mine because it will create 10,000 new jobs which they need to callout. Matt Canavan was on TV claiming 17,000 new jobs. Mining as a job is fast sinking and in 3 to 5 years it will near to 10 jobs per 1000 tons, Adani claimed in EPA Court 1456 FTE jobs for 60,000 tons (26 jobs per 1000 tons). Even ABC program a few weeks back claimed that “Mining was not a job for the future!”
        RE has lots of jobs but nobody is talking up the numbers

        • Ken Dyer

          Palusczuk is on record as not paying out any money to Adani and any support would be post mining operations. As the Adani mine clearly is already a stranded economic asset with huge unbankable debt, the argument for jobs is looking increasingly shaky. However, the reality is that up to five seats may be affected in the next election and the jobs fiction is still being maintained, helped along by the gullible and conflicted local governments of Townsville and Rockhampton who have coughed up $30 million to build Adani an airstrip for FIFO workers. What a con and waste of ratepayers dollars!

          A recent clean energy auction in Queensland received more than 8000 MW in bids, more than the entire black coal generation in Queensland. A coal fired power station in Queensland recently had to have $45million spent on it to keep it going. They are all getting pretty old.

          So while Canavan and the Ginger Whinger are squawking about a new coal fired power station, the Queensland State Government are getting on with renewable energy business, and spending the minimum to keep the old coal junkers going. Queensland is the Sunshine State and Palusczuk is proving it!

    • neroden

      FWIW polling is showing that Tasmania may change from the current Libs to Labor next year. By mid-2018 NSW may be the only Lib government other than the federal government. Sadly it is the highest population state so the outcome of the federal election remains unassured. 🙁 However, the NSW Liberals seem to be breaking with the federal liberals over the insane federal Liberal pro-coal policies…

  • Joe

    Another win for progressive States. Premier Jay and SA have been real strong in recent months and now Premier Dan and Vic have upped it. I’ll give the The Liberals no matter what jurisdiction, State or Federal some credit…they are consistent…consistent in being derelict in their duty and responsibility to future generations. What part of climate change and maintaining a sustainable environment for human habitation do they not get.

  • Colin Edwards

    Western Australia, not being part of the NEM, is the only Labor state that doesn’t have it’s own RET – stuck with the Commonwealth one for now.

  • Patrick Comerford

    An interesting legal battle will commence shortly in California where some local governments are suing car manufacturers for the costs they will have to bear caused by these companies lobbying federal departments such as the EPA to resist implementing lower car emission standards and any subsequent adverse health effects if they are successful.
    It’s not too much a stretch of the imagination to envisage in the future political parties and their politicians being sued for resisting or slowing down actions to combat the harmful effects of climate change. Now wouldn’t that be a corker to see Abbort and Trumble in the dock being sued for the damage they have caused to this country

    • Joe

      Abbott’s defence..”climate change is crap BUT if it is happening it is doing more good than harm”. Love to see a Barrister go with that sort of defence. And Turnbull’s defence would of course be…’it was Abbott’s policy to do little or nothing about climate and Abbott is the defacto Leader of The COALition. I am guilty of nothing more than implementing Abbott’s policy…so sue him not me”.

  • lin

    Again the Andrews government shows the Vic LibNats to be a bunch of gibbering idiots. Keep it up minister Guy. The longer you remain unelectable, the better for Victoria.

  • Grpfast

    New Zealand looking at 100% renewables by 2035, Australia labor states ( except WA) setting future renewable targets and Federal LNP sits and protects the past. Australia must look stupid to China and Europe.