The Victoria Labor government has hired former ACT environment and climate change minister Simon Corbell to the newly created position of Renewable Energy Advocate to help pilot the state towards its 40 per cent renewable target by 2025.
Corbell was the principal architect and driving force behind the ACT government’s 100 per cent renewable energy target for its electricity needs by 2020.
The innovative “reverse auctions” it pioneered brought down costs, locked in the target and underpinned the local large-scale renewable energy industry at a time when uncertainty around the national target brought the sector to a virtual standstill.
For this reason, Victoria’s choice of Corbell appears to be a deliberate poke in the eye to the federal Coalition, which is trying to brow-beat the states into abandoning their renewable energy targets while refusing to lift its own national target or take emissions reduction targets seriously.
Victoria hopes to grab a bigger share of the renewable sector by targeting 25 per cent by 2025, and using reverse auction mechanisms to help it get to first base, and then to the 2025 target. The first auction is due next year.
Queensland also has a 50 per cent target by 2030, as does the Northern Territory, while South Australia is already close to 50 per cent renewable energy having grabbed the lion’s share of the federal target in past years.
Two of the wind farms to be built for the ACT’s governments target are located in Victoria – the completed Coonooer Bridge wind farm, and the nearly complete Ararat wind farm.
Victoria energy minister Lily d’Ambrosio said Corbell’s role will include heading Victoria’s key advisory body on renewable energy development, leading efforts to attract further investment and helping in the implementation of the VRET.
“Mr Corbell has over two decades of senior experience in public policy and has been a champion for reform in the renewable energy and climate change sector,” she said in a statement.
“We’re giving the renewable energy sector the confidence needed to invest in the renewable energy projects and jobs that are crucial to Victoria’s future.”
Corbell said the VRET was invaluable for renewable energy in Australia. “Victoria’s got a strong target and strong policies,” he told RenewEconomy.
The reverse auction, which will help lift its renewable energy share from 12 per cent now to 40 per cent in eight years, will help see more than 5,000MW of wind and solar built. This compares to the near 700MW commissioned by the ACT program.
“It is a significant scaling up of the mechanism that worked so successfully for the ACT … and it will help drive down the cost of renewables, create a lot of new investment and a significant increase in jobs,” Corbell said.
“We know this works, the ACT attracted half a billion dollars of investment and the scale of Victoria’s program shows there are significant opportunities to be seized.”
On the current national debate, and the apparent disconnect between federal policy and the advice of the CSIRO, the Finkel report, and various energy lobbies, Corbell said it highlights the problems of not having an enduring national consensus of energy policy.
“And it highlights the importance of state-based targets. They will provide a very important role in providing policy certainty to drive down costs. The certainty means the cost of finance will be cheaper and that means renewable energy costs will be cheaper.”
The first reverse auctions are likely to be held in the second half of next year.