The Victorian Labor government has nailed its colours to the mast on energy just two weeks out from the state election, with a promise to boost its target for renewables generation to 50 per cent by 2030 if re-elected.
The new target, announced on Thursday, builds on the Andrews government’s current legislated targets of sourcing 25 per cent of the state’s electricity generation from renewable sources by 2020, and 40 per cent by 2025.
And while it sounds impressive, it is most likely all academic now.
As you can see in the chart below, Victoria is on track to coast past 50 per cent renewables sometime in 2029 – and that is according to the business-as-usual “neutral” scenario mapped out in the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan.
This chart was prepared before the Labor government’s recent announcement of a massive solar PV incentive, which will see another 2.6GW of rooftop solar installed on another 650,000 homes over the next 10 years.
Nevertheless, it remains an interesting tactic for the Labor Party so close to the election – which some media reports are putting down to efforts to reclaim Greens voters.
On the one hand, it aligns the Victorian party with its federal counterpart, which proposes a nationwide target of 50 per cent renewables by 2030, and matches the targets made by the Queensland and Northern Territory Labor governments.
On the other hand, it exposes the party to the same hysterical outcries from the opposition, which – federally, at least – has repeatedly and consistently decried 50 per cent renewables as a “wreckless” and “economy-wrecking” goal.
At a state level, Matthew Guy’s Liberal Party has promised to scrap the VRET, and has – like the Morrison government – chosen to focus instead on lower electricity prices, as part of its “Get Back In Control” campaign.
The party has been broadly criticised by renewable energy advocates and the industry for failing to have any policy at all to manage the state’s low-carbon transition, aside from a promise to put solar on the roof of every state school.
Daniel Andrews’ Labor, meanwhile, has gone hard in the other direction, with a slew of policy announcements ranging from household solar and battery rebates, to support for microgrids, large-scale wind and solar farms and batteries; and – just today – a new announcement on solar for renters.
“In four short years, 732MW of new renewable energy capacity has been built, and more than 3,000MW of renewable capacity is under construction or contracted to be built,” Labor said in a statement on Thursday.
“Victoria’s first renewable energy auction is delivering 928MW of renewable energy, with the six projects across the state producing enough electricity to power 646,273 households – the equivalent of powering the towns of Ballarat, Bendigo, and Geelong combined.
“The power produced by these projects is also expected to drive a 16 per cent reduction in Victoria’s electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2034/35.
“Boosting the VRET builds on the government’s work to cut power bills for Victorians, from the $50 Power Saving Bonus, to subsidising solar panels and installing batteries or hot water systems on 720,000 houses across the state through the Solar Homes program – driving down energy prices and greenhouse gas emissions,” it said.
Whatever voters might think of it, industry has welcomed the news of the VRET extension, which – while it is, technically, already in the bag – offers much needed certainty to investors that is missing at the federal level, post 2020.
“The industry is not calling for new subsidy, but we do need investment certainty,” said Clean Energy Council chief Kane Thornton in a statement on Thursday.
“Federal energy policy remains in chaos following the demise of the National Energy Guarantee, and the renewable energy industry is now looking for leadership at the state level beyond the end of this decade.
“Building new low-cost clean energy such as solar and wind before our ageing coal-fired plants retire is the most effective way to drive down power prices for Victorian energy customers.”