Victoria’s Labor government has made good on its election promise to boost the state’s renewable energy target to 50 per cent by 2030, with the introduction of a bill into parliament on Tuesday that will lock the target into law.
The Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Amendment Bill 2019 builds on the Andrews government’s original VRET legislation, which saw Victoria become the first Australian state to write its renewables target into law.
The original legislation, which passed through the state parliament without a single show of support from the LNP opposition, committed the state to source 25 per cent of its electricity generation from renewable sources by 2020, and 40 per cent by 2025.
“These targets help industry to invest with certainty, creating local jobs – particularly in regional Victoria,” said state energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio in a statement on Tuesday.
“Victoria is the renewable energy capital of Australia and strengthening the VRET in law will keep it that way – boosting jobs, reducing emissions and driving down energy prices.”
As we have reported, the addition of the 2030 target – while no doubt a welcome sign to the renewable energy industry – is now mostly academic, with Victoria on track to pass 50 per cent renewables sometime in 2029, according to the business-as-usual “neutral” scenario mapped out in the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan.
In the time since the ISP and the above chart were produced by AEMO, Victoria has also rolled out its massive – if controversial – solar PV incentive, which aims to add another 2.6GW of rooftop solar on another 650,000 homes over the next 10 years.
There are, however, issues with the state’s network, but AEMO has unveiled its own proposals to make additions that will allow the necessary wind and solar capacity to join the grid.
Green groups argue the Andrews government should set an even more ambitious target, to both speed up and smooth the transition to renewables, and away from coal, particularly given warnings – such as that from Alinta Energy in this week’s Energy Insiders podcast – that coal plants will close early.
“With recent speculation that Victorian coal power stations could close much earlier than expected, we need to build more renewable energy and storage ahead of time to ensure the energy transition is as smooth as possible,” said Environment Victoria campaigns manager Dr Nicholas Aberle on Tuesday.
“Signing into law a minimum of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 is an important step from the Andrews government, but we should be aiming to go much higher.
“The IPCC has made it clear that developed countries should stop burning coal by 2030 if we are to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.”
Friends of the Earth, meanwhile, has welcomed the new renewables bill as a sign that the government will follow suit with “science-based” emissions reduction targets, to help keep warming well below 1.5°C.
“The increased renewable energy target shows the Andrews government has a plan to cut emissions in the electricity sector in a way that creates climate jobs,” said Act on Climate coordinator Leigh Ewbank.
The Victorian government says the increased VRET will contribute some heavy lifting on emissions reduction for the state, while also creating around 24,000 jobs by 2030, and driving an additional $5.8 billion in economic activity.
D’Ambrosio said driving the roll-out of renewable energy on the grid would also cut power costs by around $32 a year for households, $3,100 a year for medium businesses and $150,000 each year for large companies.