Inquiry on achieving 100 percent renewables passed by Victorian State Parliament

March 4, 2020 at 3:39 pm 1 comment

The Victorian Parliament on Wednesday supported a Greens motion in the Legislative Council, looking at pathways for Victoria to be powered by 100 per cent clean energy, including the economic and employment benefits of such an energy transition.

Victoria currently has a 50 per cent renewables target by 2030. Coal currently provides 70 per cent of the state’s electricity.

The Inquiry won’t start until later in 2020 or early 2021, highlighted Samantha Ratnam in breaking the news in a Facebook post.

By the 31st of March 2020 Premier Dan Andrews also needs to announce interim emissions reduction targets for 2025 and 2030, under the state’s Climate Change Act. Climate groups are urging that interim targets that match the climate science are adopted. The Combet panel report modelled that a target of 67% by 2030 was needed to have a moderate chance of reaching 1.5 degrees. Environment Victoria recommends a safer target of 80-100% by 2030. Read the CAMoreland submission into Victorian interim emissions targets.

Dr Ratnam, the Leader of the Greens, moved the motion in the Legislative Council, as Motion No. 243 referring a matter to the Environment and Planning Committee relating to renewable energy.

Dr Samantha Ratnam

Dr Ratnam’s motion to the Legislative Council:

That this house:

(1) notes:

(a) the catastrophic and unprecedented 2019–20 bushfire season that has devastated Victorian communities, causing loss of life, homes, wildlife and habitat;

(b) that this summer has been the hottest summer on record in Victoria, with severe impacts on vulnerable people, communities, the Victorian economy and wildlife;

(2) acknowledges that:

(a) extreme weather events, such as the 2019–20 bushfire season and intense heatwaves, are the climate change impacts we are now experiencing in Victoria due to a 1-degree increase in global temperatures;

(b) for Victoria to do our share in meeting Australia’s Paris agreement commitment to limit global warming below 1.5 degrees, we must significantly and rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions;

(3) requires the Environment and Planning Committee to inquire into, consider and report, by October 2021, on:

(a) measures to enable Victoria to transition its energy supply to 100 per cent renewable energy;

(b) jobs and economic benefits and implications of Victoria transitioning to 100 per cent renewable energy;

(c) investment, both public and private, required to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy generation in Victoria, including investment in grid infrastructure and energy storage;

(d) further opportunities for Victoria to reduce emissions, including through finding alternatives to industrial and household gas consumption;

(e) government investment or action that would be needed to support workers in impacted industries to facilitate a just transition and ensure workers and communities are not left behind as Victoria transitions to 100 per cent renewable energy;

(f) the economic risks of not urgently reducing emissions by transitioning to 100 per cent renewable energy; and

(g) any other related matters.


Watch the speech and the reply from MS Taylor (ALP – Southern Metropolitan). Ms Taylor outlined the achievements to date of the Dan Andrews Labor Government in developing renewables from a small base and continuing policy action.

Ms Taylor summarised the Labor Government achievements as “We have record investment in renewables in Victoria, and we have delivered certainty for the market through the Victorian renewable energy target—and that is legislated. This is a legendary and transformative reform for our wonderful state. I am certainly incredibly proud of our achievements, since being in government from 2014, on this issue. One of the main drivers that we have invested in, or one of the significant drivers, is the reverse auction, which took place in 2017. We know that as a result of these significant projects that there will be—and I will just reiterate—24 400 jobs generated in Victoria. We also have on top of that the benefit-sharing model—that I did speak to before—because it is not only a matter of setting up a solar farm or a wind farm; we also know that there are many other flow-on benefits for the community such as investment in affordable housing.”

Dr Ratnam’s speech Starts at 8 minutes in. This video is only a partial record of the debate.

 


Proof text from Hansard of Dr Ratnam’s speech (provided for hearing impaired visitors)

As we begin speaking to this motion and debating it, I would like to acknowledge firstly the members of the public both in the gallery and watching the live stream of this debate here today. There has never been a more important time to engage with democracy and to champion our transition to 100 per cent clean energy. So thank you.

We are here today in the midst of a climate crisis, one of our own making. It is now undeniable that human activities are impacting the planet’s atmosphere and ecosystems to such an extent that we are putting our own existence under threat, not to mention the existence of our natural world. The world has already warmed by 1 degree, and the effects of the climate crisis are now being felt around the world and right here in Victoria. The bushfires we experienced in Australia this summer were recognised around the world for what they were: a significant global climate event. If they are not the wake-up call on the need to act with urgency to decarbonise our energy system, it is difficult to imagine what else will need to happen. Lives were lost, property destroyed, forest and habitat burned and over 1 billion animals killed. We experienced a human and environmental catastrophe, and the longer we wait to act on the climate crisis the more likely it is that we will experience more climate-related disasters every single year. The fires we just experienced—hotter, fiercer, starting earlier in the year and finishing later—are being fuelled by the effects of climate change, and the biggest contributor to the climate crisis is the burning of coal, gas and oil.

Burning coal in particular is the worst offender in our growing climate crisis. In Victoria we still get more than 70 per cent of our electricity from burning coal. We have three old and unreliable coal-powered stations, including the Yallourn coal-powered station, which is the most polluting in Australia. The next 10 years are absolutely vital in keeping the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees, consistent with Australia’s Paris commitment, and Victoria must do our part. Net zero emissions by 2050 targets, like Victoria has, are good, but just not enough. This is why I am moving a motion for this inquiry today to help us accelerate our action. A drastic reduction in climate emissions must occur in the next decade, and that means phasing out coal in Victoria. That is the science. After ignoring the science for decades, we now have a duty to finally act and act with the urgency required, because if we continue to ignore the signs, we will continue to experience devastating extreme weather events like summers of fires, catastrophic flooding and continued sea level encroachment.

The disruption to our society, to our economy and to our way of life, will be immense. What we experienced this summer with smoke haze, where outdoor workers were left to work in hazardous conditions and where we had days where clouds of smoke turned the day into night is just the beginning.

Last year I put forward amendments for Victoria to have a renewable energy target of 100 per cent by 2030. Only Mr Meddick supported that amendment alongside us. We sat here and listened to all the excuses as to why we cannot act with the urgency demanded by the science. Those excuses ranged from outright climate denial by some on the benches opposite, a position that will be condemned by history and future generations, to all those who said they were supportive of the intent of that amendment but did not know how we could achieve 100 per cent renewable energy. This is your opportunity to find out by backing this inquiry today.

We also heard during that debate that we should just leave it to the market, but the myth of a free market is not only unable to address the current crisis but is in large part responsible for the mess that we are in, in terms of the climate but also the crisis of inequality facing the world. An economic system that privileges corporate profit over people will simply drive us over the edge.

In fact our economic system is already being severely disrupted by the climate crisis. This summer’s bushfires are estimated to cost the Australian economy up to $100 billion. So this disruption to the economy is already happening. The question is whether we continue to pretend it is not or instead embrace the enormous economic opportunity of a transition to 100 per cent renewable energy. I also heard during that debate that our proposal was unrealistic, not feasible, and the government’s plan for half of what is required was somehow sufficient. I am sure I will hear many of those same arguments again today. In our lack of imagination to fully understand the impacts of climate change we have wasted time we do not have. We have lost years we could have spent investing in renewables and green infrastructure and developing a fair and just transition plan away from fossil fuels, and instead we have let ourselves inch closer to the point of no return.

While we have been wasting time and making excuses for why 100 per cent renewable energy is too hard, other places have been proving us wrong, showing that moving towards 100 per cent renewable energy is entirely doable, that you can get out of coal and gas and transition to clean energy in a way that supports workers and keeps electricity prices down. We have seen the ACT and South Australia leading on renewables in Australia. Now is the time for action. Now after a summer of catastrophic fires, we must finally acknowledge that we need to start addressing our climate crisis. Now is not the time for politics as usual. That is why I am really excited about our inquiry motion today. This inquiry will allow all parties to hear from the energy experts, the economic experts and the climate experts about how we can move Victoria to 100 per cent renewable energy as soon as possible.

I am even more excited because I know this transition will be a great thing for us here in Victoria. It will create tens of thousands of new jobs in exciting sectors like offshore wind, green hydrogen and building an engine network fit for the 21st century. The inquiry will also be a great chance for our communities to tell us what they want for their towns, regions and homes, as Victoria embraces a clean energy revolution. In particular, this inquiry is an opportunity to support the community and workers in the Latrobe Valley coal sector so we can make this transition one in which no-one is left behind.

I know that so many Victorians want strong action on climate change. We have all been receiving so many emails, calls and meeting requests from the community. I urge everyone in this place to consider the weight their words have and do away with the tired old excuses for climate inaction. I call on you all to support this inquiry and help Victoria act with the necessary emergency on the climate crisis and move forward together in our transition to 100 per cent clean energy. I commend this motion to the house.

The PRESIDENT: Ms Taylor, can you give us your best 3 minutes?

Ms TAYLOR (Southern Metropolitan) (11:57): We are all about action, and anyone who suggests otherwise is going to make me very cranky, I tell you what! I tell you what: since 2014 there has been a renewable energy revolution in this state, and we stand proudly on that record. That is what we are all about. We are all about action—not pontificating, but doing. Is that not right?

Ms Shing: That’s right!

Ms TAYLOR: Exactly. And when the previous Liberal government were in, were you not frustrated with the barriers that they put up to wind farms? Did that not make you sick? It made me sick to the stomach, but we turned that around—because that is what we are; we are all about action, and we understand the climate is changing. We believe that fully, and we know we had unprecedented fires causing tremendous destruction to our beautiful wildlife, our flora and fauna, but we are all about action, and what does that look like?

We have new renewable energy generators pumping out clean energy across the state, with many more developers eager to build. We also have major investments in grid-scale batteries, energy efficiency and household solar power that are transforming the way people use power in Victoria—undeniable, because we have decisive leadership, and we would not have the investment we have today if we did not believe in climate change, if we did not believe in a cleaner energy revolution, if we did not believe in jobs that can be created from this, and we have led the way because we have legislated Victorian renewable energy targets, which have given the market certainty. So I will not take it that we are not acting. Are we not acting?

Ms Terpstra: We are.

Ms TAYLOR: And we are strong and we are strident, and we are continuing with ongoing investment into the future, because we believe in a future for our children. Since the Andrews Labor government was elected in 2014, 18 different projects providing over 1200 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity have become operational—done, executed. Great!

We also have 14 renewable energy projects currently under construction or undergoing commissioning, which will provide over 2600 megawatts of renewable energy once they are complete—action, real investment. Finally, we have a strong pipeline of projects being developed across our state with over 4000 megawatts of new projects receiving planning approval under our government, and I am so proud of it.

This renewable energy boom has been driven by our Victorian renewable energy target, which I referred to before, which we recently increased to 50 per cent by 2030. This new target—wait for it, wait for it—24 400 jobs in Victoria will utilise the supply chain that has grown across Victoria. I just point out to those opposite who are always talking down renewables: it is all about jobs and it is all about a future for Victorians.

Ms Shing: And leadership.

Ms TAYLOR: And leadership, exactly. We are not shy on this topic. We go for it. And to help meet the Victorian renewable energy target we held Australia’s largest reverse auction in 2017. The auction successfully supported six large-scale wind and solar projects in regional Victoria—Mr Quilty, please note this: we do look after regional Victoria. You have got to acknowledge that, okay? Take it on board—bringing online 928 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity.

Debate resumed.

Ms TAYLOR (Southern Metropolitan) (12:49): I am very glad to talk about one of my favourite subjects—that is, cleaner energy, jobs and driving down power prices. What is not to love? I think I was at the point of talking about Australia’s largest reverse auction in 2017. The auction successfully supported six large-scale wind and solar projects in regional Victoria—take note, Mr Quilty—bringing online 928 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity. What is really brilliant about this is that there are so many flow-on benefits which our government has strategically driven and facilitated for the broader community, and I am going to explain that in a moment.

Just to be really specific and clear about the projects that are to be delivered, there is the Berrybank wind farm west of Geelong, 180 megawatts; Carwarp solar farm south of Mildura, 121.6 megawatts; Cohuna solar farm north-west of Echuca, 34.2 megawatts; Dundonnell wind farm north-east of Warrnambool, 336 megawatts; Mortlake South wind farm south of Mortlake, 157.5 megawatts; and Winton solar farm near Benalla, 98.9 megawatts. Now here is the clincher: combined, these projects will generate $1.1 billion of economic investment in regional Victoria—hooray—and create more than 900 jobs, because that is what our government is all about. We always look at all the key elements and the benefits for the community on all levels.

I want to get down to that very important element of what our government has also driven to flow on from the investment in renewable energy. Through the implementation of the Major Projects Skills Guarantee, the successful Victorian renewable energy target projects will also support over 200 apprenticeship, trainee and cadet positions throughout the construction phase of the six facilities. We set the bar pretty high because we know that Victorians are up for it. This is exactly what they want. They want cleaner energy and they want investment—real investment in projects which drive power prices down and create a cleaner energy future.

Projects funded through the Victorian renewable energy target auction were also required to show how their projects would deliver community benefits, which has led to some excellent outcomes for all the community—and I am going to explain them. The Victorian government encouraged proponents to work with communities to develop a benefit-sharing model that is fit for purpose to create strategic opportunities, drive local innovation and meet significant needs in the local region, and this has delivered tremendous benefits across Victoria. As part of this comprehensive benefit-sharing plan, for instance, for Dundonnell wind farm, Tilt Renewables have contributed $500 000 towards the construction of long-term affordable housing for women and their families escaping family violence in Bayswater. That is what I am talking about.

Now let us go to Berrybank wind farm. This has also committed $1.9 million across the life of the wind farm to support students learning about wind energy, providing scholarships to university and TAFE students and curriculum materials related to wind energy, and organising site excursions and work experience for secondary and university students. This is what I am talking about. We look at all levels and all benefits that can be driven for the community, not just simply, ‘Yes, we have set up a wind farm and off we go’. We are looking at investing in a sustainable future, in cleaner energy.

Finally, the Mortlake South wind farm will facilitate a partnership with Deakin University by sharing the costs of two post-doctoral researchers for three years, at a total cost of $660 000, to research virtual and augmented reality applications in wind and solar farm development.

Now, another solar investment that I am incredibly proud of is with Melbourne’s entire tram fleet being offset with power from Bannerton and Numurkah solar farms. As someone who has taken many a tram in my time, it is very comforting to know that we have actually taken that strong action. We are not saying, ‘Yep, we’re just going to rely on the old mechanisms for driving power’. We have actually taken that forward step and we have invested in solar farms that offset the trams—you know, the energy that is required.

Dr Kieu: One hundred per cent.

Ms TAYLOR: A hundred per cent, that is right. Not 20 per cent, not 30 per cent, 100 per cent. It gives you comfort. When you are taking that tram you can say, ‘Hey, this is terrific. We have that solar power investment’. It makes people feel better in the community, too. It empowers them and also encourages them when they are taking public transport to feel they are actually doing something really good for their community in turn.

Further benefits: this will reduce approximately 80 000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. That is incredibly significant, and again, even for the climate deniers that are out there—and I know they are—what is the loss in reducing pollution? What could possibly go wrong with actually having cleaner air for the children? When you think of the asthma and all the other conditions that flow on from all the fumes et cetera that we have, when you drive down emissions you also literally create a cleaner environment for our children, for Victorian children, for the future.

As a result of these investments, we have seen a strong renewable supply chain flourishing in—I want to say it again—regional Victoria. This is a good thing, Mr Quilty. You have got to agree with me. This is good, this is good for regional Victoria—bearing in mind that in our government we have a number of MPs who are actually based in regional Victoria. That is why I always find it a little interesting when we have these debates. We are all one, we are all Victorians, we all love our beautiful state. We need not have this war and this tension, because one can actually benefit the other. Just as I was saying with the Numurkah and the Bannerton solar farms in turn helping to offset the energy use in the city, it is a win-win; everybody wins.

Now, looking at the supply chain, I just want to really focus on the very courageous steps that our government has taken. The Vestas Renewable Energy Hub came about as a result of the Victorian renewable energy target reverse auction. Fancy that. The hub will be based in an old Ford factory at Geelong and will involve investment of approximately $3.5 million and directly employ over 20 employees. What is fantastic is that that is the starting point. That is just the start, because from there the project will train hundreds of local staff in wind turbine maintenance and see wind turbine component assembly in Australia for the first time in over 10 years. So that is local production—that has got to be good for Victorians—but not only that, once you create a wind turbine you have actually got to maintain it. Therefore that fosters jobs and maintenance jobs over the lifetime of that particular wind turbine, which is again about good jobs for local Victorians and good for our economy.

We have also seen Victorian businesses such as Keppel Prince thrive, with the company producing a record number of wind towers. And that is what we are all about: we are all about transitioning, our government actively transitioning to more clean energy. We are not just pontificating. As I have explained today, we are actually doing and we have the record to show.

The government is also putting power stations on the roofs of Victorians through our Solar Homes program, which will see—and we have already seen a significant number of investments in this manner since our government has been in government—solar panels, solar hot water or solar batteries rolled out to 770 000 Victorian households over the next 10 years. That is more than 2 gigawatts of new power on people’s roofs. Another example is our $15.8 million microgrid demonstration initiative, which showcases innovative projects that combine renewable energy, storage and smart control technologies. This is really exciting.

We have had some great success stories in Victoria, like the community of Yackandandah—again, regional Victoria—I have been there; I know it is in regional Victoria—who have taken back control of their energy costs and discovered firsthand the benefits of distributed energy. So a shout-out to Yackandandah, to the residents of Yackandandah. That is fabulous. As we see more communities across the country—

The PRESIDENT: Sorry, Ms Taylor, to interrupt you once again, but it is an appropriate time to break for lunch.

Sitting suspended 1.00 pm until 2.03 pm.

Ms TAYLOR: I would like at this point in the debate to actually round off my contribution; bearing in mind that I think there are many people who feel passion for this particular topic and care very much for the future of Victorians.

In summary, what I would say is that words are nice, but that action is better. We have record investment in renewables in Victoria, and we have delivered certainty for the market through the Victorian renewable energy target—and that is legislated. This is a legendary and transformative reform for our wonderful state. I am certainly incredibly proud of our achievements, since being in government from 2014, on this issue. One of the main drivers that we have invested in, or one of the significant drivers, is the reverse auction, which took place in 2017. We know that as a result of these significant projects that there will be—and I will just reiterate—24 400 jobs generated in Victoria. We also have on top of that the benefit-sharing model—that I did speak to before—because it is not only a matter of setting up a solar farm or a wind farm; we also know that there are many other flow-on benefits for the community such as investment in affordable housing. You cannot argue with that. That has got to be good for Victoria. There are many other elements of investment from our government. I did speak to the 100 per cent renewable offset for solar trams, and the solar homes investment that is absolutely driving downward pressure on power prices and actually giving power back to Victorians so they are able to have cleaner energy but also to have more control over their energy costs over time.

There will be further discussion, I am sure, today on our investment in the energy grid and battery storage, but I am going to allow my comrades to have a little more sharing and caring on that topic. I have enjoyed the discussion today; you know I am passionate about this. We are genuine, we are committed and you can see that by our incredible record in this domain.


Entry filed under: 100% renewables, coal closures, news, renewable energy. Tags: , , , .

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