Victoria’s energy minister has signalled that emerging battery technologies will be a focus of the Labor government’s effort to boost the state’s share of Australia’s burgeoning renewables market.
In an interview with Fairfax Media on Monday, Lily D’Ambrosio said she wanted to encourage energy storage technologies as one part of a $20 million “new energy jobs fund” the Andrews government had established.
The Andrews government has promised to release detailed plans on how it will grow the state’s renewable energy industry later this year.
According to The Age, D’Ambrosio would not detail what measures were being considered in the plans, but did rule out the use of feed-in tariffs, and pointed to the ACT as a “shining light” on effective renewables development.
In the absence of federal policy support, ACT environment minister Simon Corbell has taken a lead role on renewables, last week heading up a joint meeting on climate change in Adelaide, at which Australia’s states and territories vowed to work together to unblock the nation’s large-scale renewables market.
As we reported then, top of the agenda for the meeting was the reverse auction systems successfully deployed by the ACT for 200MW of wind and 40MW of solar to date, as it works towards a target of 90 per cent renewables by 2020.
According to The Age, D’Ambrosio says her government’s ultimate ambition is to increase renewable energy’s share of Victoria’s generation mix, in turn driving investment and new jobs growth in the state.
Last week, the Andrews government called on the Abbott government to reconsider a legislative ban on state governments having their own renewable energy targets so they had more policy options.
On coal, Fairfax reports that the minister would not rule out further development of state’s massive brown coal reserves, “but said she would proceed cautiously.”
Interestingly, D’Ambrosio also said that energy generators “could not just sit around and hope for government handouts for closure,” and had to make up their own minds in a private market where their investment should be and the type of energy production they would be a part of.
Her statement coincides with the news today that Alcoa has decided to permanently shut down its brown coal power station and mine in Anglesea, on Victoria’s west coast, after failing to find a buyer for the facility.
The closure would take place at the end of August, leaving 85 mine workers without a job.
Environment Victoria welcomed news of the power plant’s closure, describing it as a huge victory for the local community.
“What this episode shows is that leaving the closure of old power stations to corporate decision making means there might not be time to diversify local economies before job losses occur,” said Environment Victoria CEO Mark Wakeham.
“With significant oversupply of electricity generation in Victoria, Anglesea will not be the last power station to close suddenly. State and federal Governments need a plan to continue the phase-out of dirty power stations that supports communities and minimises disruption,” he said.
Surf Coast Air Action – the local group driving the campaign to have the Angelsea plant and mine closed – welcomed D’Ambrosio’s comments about energy storage, coal and ageing, dirty power plants.
“It’s a breath of fresh air to have an Energy Minister who is serious about taking Victorian energy policy into the 21st century,” said SCAA spokesperson Andrew Laird.
“Minister D’Ambrosio’s indication that she will proceed cautiously on proposed coal projects is very welcome,” said another SCAA spokesperson, Dr Jacinta Morahan, on Monday.
“One of SCAA’s key concerns has been that an attempt might be made to access Government funding to prop up the redundant Anglesea coal mine and plant, which has failed to attract a buyer.”