The Victorian state government says has been left in the dark over a possible bilateral deal with the Morrison government and has not heard back from federal energy minister Angus Taylor after initial discussions held last year.
D’Ambrosio said that the Victorian government had initially been approached by federal energy minister Angus Taylor to discuss a bilateral agreement, similar to one struck with the NSW government earlier in the year, but since that first contact discussions had gone cold.
“Interestingly, Angus Taylor was very keen in the lead up to the December meeting [of the COAG Energy Council], to talk to me and explain to me that he wanted to strike a bilateral arrangement with Victoria,” D’Ambrosio told the RenewEconomy Energy Insiders Podcast.
“That was the first and last time we’ve spoken about it. I’ve not heard from him since.”
“Whatever a bilateral arrangement might mean for Victoria, it hasn’t been articulated, and it hasn’t been progressed with us.”
There has been speculation around what a Victorian deal may entail, which would likely seek commitments from the Victorian government to expand gas exploration and a lifting of a moratorium on the exploration for on-shore gas reserves, but according to the Victorian energy minister, no details have been forthcoming.
“I know they’ve done a very big deal with New South Wales, and I would be very clear in my language that Victoria expects to get its fair share, and I do have some concern that they’ve yet to make an approach to us,” D’Ambrosio said.
“I suppose that will have in due course, but what’s important here is that we’re not going to be waiting around for the Commonwealth.”
Federal energy minister Angus Taylor has flagged an intention to negotiate one-on-one deals with State governments on energy investment, after being accused of impeding action being sought by State and Territory energy ministers at meetings of the COAG Energy Council to reduce emissions.
Taylor struck the first bilateral deal with New South Wales last month, which saw the federal government commit to $960 million in funding and loans to support the establishment of New South Wales’ first Renewable Energy Zone.
In return, the NSW Government agreed to expand the state’s natural gas production, boosting supplies by at least 90 Petajoules a year, as well as supporting the federal government’s investments in upgrading coal-fired generators.
D’Ambrosio criticised the control the Federal government exerted over the schedule and agenda of the COAG Energy Council, which met just once in 2019.
“We’ve had a COAG Energy Council which as had very poor leadership at the national level. We have a federal government which decides when these meetings happen, we almost went through a whole year last year without having any meetings,” D’Ambrosio said.
“This is at a time when we need to have a much more hands-on approach.”
The Victorian government has sought to push ahead with its own investments in strengthening the State’s electricity system following the lack of leadership from the Federal government.
Earlier this week, the Victorian government announced that it would undertake a dramatic intervention to address an ongoing network infrastructure crisis that has prevented several solar and wind projects from participating in the National Electricity Market.
Citing outdated National Electricity Rules, D’Ambrosio said that it was important that the State government acts to eliminate barriers to new investment in network infrastructure to alleviate the network constraints hampering renewables projects.
You can hear the full interview with Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio on the Energy Insiders podcast.