Labor to keep Energy Efficiency program with a review to strengthen it
The new Victorian Government has moved quickly to ensure the continuance of the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target (VEET) scheme that the previous Liberal Government were preparing to abolish.
Increasing energy efficiency provides a double saving of reducing green house gas emissions and energy costs. It is one of the main methods the International Energy Agency suggests as necessary for tackling carbon emissions, already making a substantial contribution to mitigation efforts, even in Australia.
Energy and Resources Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced on 19 December 2014 that the Victorian Government will retain the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target (VEET) scheme which will save 2000 jobs.
“Energy efficiency is one of the best ways for homes and businesses to reduce bills and greenhouse gas emissions.” said Lily d’Ambrosio.
For 2015 the target for the scheme will be 5.4 million Victorian energy efficiency certificates, with each certificate representing a tonne of greenhouse gas emissions that will be avoided.
The scheme will be reviewed during the first half of 2015 with a view to strengthening it.
The news was welcomed by Environment Victoria’s Safe Climate Campaign Manager Nicholas Aberle who said in a statement:
“Since its introduction in 2009, the VEET scheme has been very effective at reducing power bills for participating homes, creating thousands of jobs and cutting Victoria’s carbon pollution.”
“The VEET scheme helps avoid five million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, which is almost 5% of the state’s total emissions. This is an important scheme to retain.”
“The International Energy Agency has said that energy efficiency is routinely undervalued, even though it can significantly reduce power bills and emissions with very short pay-back times.”
“We’re encouraged that the Andrews Government is looking to increase the target further in 2015.”
“Energy efficiency programs will become even more important as gas prices rise because of competition with the new east-coast gas export market.”
Increase in Energy disconnections, complaints
The announcement came as the Essential Services Commission revealed a sharp rise in electricity and gas disconnections and complaints in the 2013-2014 year. The number of energy customers participating in retailers’ hardship programs also increased by 38 per cent from 2012-13, from 24,356 to 33,673. There were also fewer customers denied access to a retailer’s hardship program.
According to the ESC statement, “Over 34,000 electricity customers were disconnected from their power supply as a result of unpaid bills, a 36 per cent increase on 2012-13. This represents 1.47 disconnections per 100 customers compared to a 1.07 disconnections per 100 customers last year. Similarly, 24,178 gas customers were disconnected during 2013-14, a rate of 1.33 disconnections per 100 customers.”
Victoria’s disconnection rate is now the highest in Australia, although disconnection rates have increased broadly across Australia.
“With a record number of Victorians being disconnected from their electricity and gas because they couldn’t afford power bills, helping low income households with energy efficiency home retro-fit programs is a win-win for both households and the environment,” said Dr Aberle.
The Andrews Government pledged a number of positive climate actions during the election campaign including to partially wind back the anti-wind farm regulations that saw numerous wind farm developments stalled under the Baillieu and Napthine Governments.
Labor also pledged to create a $20 million New Energy Jobs Fund, which will offer grants to firms and companies specialising in high-growth renewable sectors such as new energy technology.
The reinstatement of a Victorian emissions Reduction target by 2020 was also promised by Labor.
Lily D’Ambrosio, also said before the election that Labor will ensure small renewable energy projects can have fair access to the existing grid, “that energy retailers cannot discriminate against rooftop solar customers by charging extra supply fees.”
On the Federal level, in September 2014 Labor Party Senators voted with the Liberal Government in the Senate to repeal the largescale Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) program setup with bipartisan support in 2006 under the Howard Government. The IEA had identified this program as a key element of energy efficiency policy framework in Australia.
Victorian Renewable Energy Target
With the fate of the Federal Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme still in doubt, the Andrews Labor Government has not made any commitments to a Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) to provide business confidence and certainty to support the growth and investment in more local Victorian renewable energy generation by both wind farms and solar farms.
The two new Greens MPs in the Legislative Assembly, Ellen Sandell and Sam Hibbins, along with the 5 Green MPs in the Legislative Council are likely to push for the Victorian Renewable Energy Target that was mothballed in 2009 to be reinstated, according to Greens State policy.
While The Labor party has only 14 representatives in the 40 seat Legislative Council Chamber, on renewable energy it is likely to receive support from the 5 Victorian Greens MPs, plus James Purcell and Fiona Pattern.
James Purcell, former Mayor of Moyne Council and elected to the Legislative Council for Vote I Local Jobs from the Western District, is extremely sympathetic to supporting the development of regional wind farms through the RET and may support a reinstated VRET program. He has repeatedly endorsed wind farm development for the jobs, farmer income and rates revenue it brought to his shire, as well as it being the ‘right thing to do’.
Fiona Pattern, from the Australian Sex Party elected in Northern Metro region, may also support reinstatement of the VRET in accordance with her party’s progressive science based environment policy.
No doubt there will be the need for some some sensible negotiation and horse-trading done by Labor in the Legislative Council with the Greens and with minor parties to achieve it’s legislative program. There is no reason support for renewable energy can’t be quickly reinstated to copy the success of South Australia.
- Premier of Victoria media release, 19 December 2014 – Energy Efficiency Scheme To Reduce Bills, Support Jobs
- Essential Services Commission media release, 18 December 2014 – Energy Businesses receive mixed report card in customer service standards during 2013-14
- Environment Victoria media release 19 December 2014 – Environment Victoria welcomes continuation of the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target