The Victorian government has announced that it will aim to legislate the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET).
This measure has been widely welcomed by the environment movement, businesses and the broader community.
The hostile reaction by the Victorian Coalition highlights the negative attitude of the Opposition towards policy action on energy and climate change. They have been 'road testing' anti renewables messages in recent weeks. The following is our response.
Climate science makes it abundantly clear that we need to transition as rapidly as possible away from our current reliance on fossil fuels to 100% renewables if we are to have a hope of avoiding the worst of the impacts of climate change. We must also keep the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
As a wealthy, high consuming nation, Australia has a significant role to play: we must act decisively to reduce emissions. However the federal government is refusing to act at the scale that is required. In fact they are doing the opposite: attacking the state’s moratorium on conventional gas drilling and ban on fracking, and the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET).
The good news is that the Andrews government is showing leadership on the issue of transition: for instance it will soon legislate the (VRET). The scheme is a key pillar of the state’s climate change policy and is expected to reduce emissions in the electricity sector by up to 12 percent.
You would hope that in the 21st century that action on climate change would be a non partisan issue. Clearly The Greens ‘get it’. The ALP is implementing substantial climate change policy. The majority of Victorians understand the need for action on climate change. Polling shows that the majority of Coalition voters support the government acting on climate change, ending reliance on coal and moving ‘urgently’ towards 100% renewable energy.
Yet the Liberal/ National Coalition seems determined to pretend climate change is not real. It seems clear that it sees energy security and electricity cost as being key points of difference with the ALP, and in running on these issues it has taken a position that can only be described as being climate denier in nature.
In recent weeks the opposition leader, Matthew Guy, and a number of Coalition MPs have been running communication campaigns that clearly are seeking to whip up fear around the cost of electricity and threats to our energy supply.
The Opposition is ignoring the fact that renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels and the VRET is currently the only plan on the table to increase electricity supply.
The following are some responses to this fear campaign.
• Daniel Andrews closed the Hazelwood power station.
- The Hazelwood power station was closed by its French owner Engie, not the Andrews government. The power plant operated ten years longer than its technical life and was long overdue to be retired.
- Engie's decision to close the plant was no surprise, as it has made a public commitment to divest from coal power generation as part of global efforts to limit overall global warming to 2 degrees celcius.
- Engie had let the plant run down, and it became a hazardous work environment. As a result of Worksafe Victoria investigations, it was going to cost more than $400m to make it safe enough to keep it open
Question for the Coalition:
The leader of the Opposition has told the Liberal state council that he will keep the power stations open.
- Is it Opposition policy (composed of the Liberal party, which supports privatisation and free markets) to spend $400m worth of taxpayers dollars to bring a hazardous power plant back online?
- What is the costing for keeping the remaining three plants open. Will this be included in Coalition budget and election commitments?
BROWN COAL LEVY
• The Andrews government tripled the 'tax' on coal.
- The ‘tax’ is a royalty paid by energy companies for using public resources.
- The Andrews govt increased the brown coal royalty in 2016 to ensure companies pay Victorians a fair amount for the resources they profit from. The price went from 7.6 cents to 22.8 per cents per gigajoule of energy.
- The increase brought Victoria inline with NSW and Queensland, with per-gigajoule royalties of 25.2 cents and 21.5 cents respectively.
Question for the Coalition:
• Does the Opposition really support our state selling public resources to foreign corporations at a heavily reduced rate?
- Would the Coalition lower the royalty rate to the pre 2016 level? Have they costed the budget implications of this move?
RELIABILITY AND BLACKOUTS
• Victoria is at risk of blackouts like SA.
- The Australian Energy Market Operator has said repeatedly that the closure of Hazelwood will not affect the reliability of Victoria's energy system. "In response to some media reports, AEMO confirms its previous advice that the closure of Hazelwood will not compromise the security of the Victorian electricity system nor the broader National Electricity Market (NEM) next summer."
- It is an overstatement for the Opposition to say Victoria has experienced "repeated blackouts." A blackout that occurred on 1 December 2016 was found to be caused by a broken conductor on a transmission line, not renewable energy as insinuated by Opposition MPs.
Question for the Coalition:
• Will the Opposition accept the evidence of AEMO and other experts and end the scare campaign on blackouts and power prices?
RENEWABLES KEEP A LID ON POWER PRICES
• The VRET means increased power prices.
- The Andrews government's Victorian Renewable Energy Target essential to keeping a lid on power prices. It is the only policy encouraging new generation capacity to be built in Victoria.
- The law of supply and demand dictates that building new capacity will put downward pressure on power prices. However, energy retailers have been price gouging, making it difficult for many people and businesses to pay their bills.
- A recent report by former Liberal MP Terry Mulder and others finds power prices have increased 200% since privatisation. It recommends measures to rein in the energy retailers.
Questions for the Coalition:
• If the Coalition won’t accept the law of supply and demand when it comes to energy and power prices, how can it be trusted to manage our economy?
• Will you accept the advice of former Liberal MP Terry Mulder and take steps to rein in energy retailers who are fleecing consumers?
Coalition blind spot:
• The opposition ignore the jobs and other benefits of renewable energy, such as drought-proof income for farmers.
• The VRET is expected to create up to 11,000 jobs and see billions invested in regional communities. The Challicum Hills and Ararat wind farms, for example, have proven the benefits of drought-proof income for farmers and are the biggest ratepayers to the Ararat Rural City. New wind farms in Bulgana and Crowlands will bring more jobs and investment to the region.
• The Victorian Renewable Energy Target will deliver jobs and investment to communities across Victoria - largely in Liberal and National electorates.
• The VRET / more wind and solar farms is something all political parties can – and should - support.
OPPOSITION ENERGY POLICY
Coalition blind spot:
• The Matthew Guy Opposition has no energy policy. It has not put forward a plan to bring more supply online.
• The Matthew Guy Coalition’s only energy policy is to scrap the Victorian Renewable Energy Target – which is the only scheme bringing new generation capacity online. They have no plan to build solar and wind farms--the cheapest form of new generation.
Mr Guy has also said he would ‘have a conversation’ with the owners of remaining coal fired power stations about ‘what kind of support they needed to stay open.’ Given that at least one other power station has been receiving Worksafe Victoria orders about occupational safety issues, this could involve a massive amount of money. With the changes that are happening in the energy supply system, Victoria could be propping up stranded assets, and missing the opportunity to invest in new, cheaper forms of energy supply.
• The Matthew Guy opposition's pledge to scrap the state Renewable Energy Target would increase power bills and unfairly impact Victorian families and businesses.
Please tell the Coalition that it’s not good enough just to complain – they need to create meaningful policy. The Victorian Coalition needs to stop blocking progressive energy and climate policy and come up with their own plan.
Here’s some ideas for taking action:
- Mention Matthew Guy on social media (Mr Guy is likely to block you on twitter quite quickly but you will join a long list of those #blockedbyGuy ).
- Please express your support for the VIC government’s position on the VRET, gas ban and moratorium.
Please use these hashtags where you have room: #VRET #VicGasBan
- Write a post on Mr Guy’s facebook page.