Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Amendment Bill 2019

Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan) (11:37:16): I too rise to speak on the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Amendment Bill 2019 and to make my contribution. I would like to agree with the contributions that were made by my colleagues Dr Kieu and Mr Elasmar. We made an election promise in November 2018 to increase Victoria’s renewable energy target (VRET) to 50 per cent by 2030. For us, when we make promises, we deliver on promises, and as a result what we are going to do is increase Victoria’s renewable energy target to 50 per cent by 2030. This will help us in putting more clean energy into the grid, increasing investment and driving down energy prices. This will also provide the industry with the continued policy certainty to invest in renewable energy projects and local supply chain development, create new local jobs and traineeships, reduce wholesale electricity prices and reduce Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions. This new target builds on Labor’s existing Victorian renewable energy targets. Currently the target is 25 per cent by the year 2020 and 40 per cent by the year 2025. Victoria is the renewable energy capital of Australia, and we want to strengthen Victoria’s renewable energy target in law to make sure that it boosts jobs, reduces emissions and reduces energy prices. This will also help us in boosting our economy, but also, more importantly, it will help us in taking care of our environment. The world is rapidly moving towards renewable energy. In 2018 the renewable sector showed solid growth. In 2019 also the growth exponentially increased. Despite what the opposition is saying and its focus on the cost-benefit analysis and talking about climate change as if it does not exist, this is the right time to seize the economic opportunities that the renewable energy transition offers. I am proud to say that we have made unprecedented investments in Victoria’s renewable energy sector and reduced our greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation. Since we were elected in 2014, 18 different projects providing over 1000 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity have become operational. We also have 14 renewable energy projects currently under construction or undergoing commissioning, which will provide over 2700 megawatts of renewable energy once they are complete But that is not all. We have a strong pipeline of projects being developed across the state, with over 4000 megawatts of new projects receiving planning approval under our government. The main purpose of the bill is to extend the existing renewable energy targets of 2020 and 2025 for Victoria to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030. This amendment bill will legislate the Victorian renewable energy target of 50 per cent of electricity generated in Victoria to come from renewable energy sources by 2030, building on existing targets. The amendment bill will provide policy certainty and investor confidence and also encourage investment, employment, and skills and technology development in the renewable energy industry. This will provide industry with continuing policy certainty to invest in renewable energy projects and local supply chain development, create new local jobs and traineeships, reduce wholesale electricity prices and reduce Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions. This will also have an impact on jobs and investment. This increased target is expected to generate new jobs, including apprenticeships and traineeships, particularly in regional Victoria. Legislating the 2030 target is expected to support additional economic activity up to $5.8 billion in Victoria, which will drive the local industry and supply chain development. This will also increase employment in Victoria by up to an average of 4067 full-time jobs a year. This will also help in further growing the contribution of local Victorian content from production materials through to new local jobs and traineeships. We want to make sure that we equip the current generation with the right training and jobs so that they can take our state into the future. This new target will also have an impact on power bills. Renewable energy plays a key role in helping drive down wholesale energy prices and providing a new source of much-needed supply. As a result of the VRET 2030 target, we expect households will save around $32 a year for individual households, $3100 for medium businesses and $150 000 for large companies. There will be huge savings over the long term. These reductions show we can do both: not only reduce carbon emissions but also make sure that energy prices go down. To make sure that the benefits of renewable energy are spread across the state we are also investing $1.3 billion in the Solar Homes program. Increasing the Victorian renewable energy target to 50 per cent by 2030 will send a clear message that we will continue to reduce emissions and continue to take action on climate change. Achieving this target is projected to reduce Victoria’s electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 to 33.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. This emissions level would be roughly 46 per cent below what the sector emitted in 2005. This is the equivalent of taking 655 000 cars off the road for a year. We are making a significant impact on the environment. Embedding the targets in legislation will provide certainty for investment and employment and also for technology development in the renewable energy industry in Victoria. This policy certainty is fundamental to giving industry the confidence to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into building new renewable energy projects in our state. The Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change is required to report to Parliament annually on progress towards the targets, ensuring accountability on behalf of the government. In September 2018 the government published the first Victorian renewable energy target progress report for the 2017–18 financial year, which found that Victoria is well on track to meet the 25 per cent target by the 2020 renewable generation target. So these are not just empty promises; we are delivering on the promises we made through fundamental policymaking. We have been clear about our support for renewable energy, and we have delivered many initiatives to support the renewable energy industry. In 2017 we held Australia’s largest reverse auction, which provided support to help bring online new renewable energy projects to meet the Victorian renewable energy target. The auction successfully supported six large-scale wind and solar projects in regional Victoria, bringing online 928 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity. We initially sought to bring online 650 megawatts but were able to deliver 928 megawatts of new renewable capacity, which eclipses the amount initially sought in the tender. Combined, these six projects will generate $1.1 billion of economic investment in regional Victoria and create more than 900 jobs. All of the successful projects from the auction, regardless of their developer, were encouraged to source as much material from local suppliers as possible. Through the implementation of the Major Projects Skills Guarantee, the successful VRET auction projects will also support over 200 apprenticeships and trainee and cadet positions throughout the construction phase of the six facilities. Let us be honest: the opposition has no record when it comes to renewables. The simple truth is that if the opposition had its way we would not have any new solar farms or new wind farms in Victoria. They are so narrow-minded and short-sighted that if it was up to them Victorians would be missing out on all the incredible benefits delivered by renewables. When those opposite were last in government they made it effectively impossible to build wind farms. The situation is certainly no better at a federal level, where there has been a total lack of long-term integrated energy and climate change policy. This destroys investor confidence and puts a halt to creating clean energy jobs and investment. It also means that we are missing out on new sources of reliable, affordable supply that can help reduce emissions. The policy certainty delivered by the VRET has also led to education providers offering new courses and accreditations to meet industry demands. Victoria is witnessing a transformation of our energy network. There are important issues to manage as we transition to a clean energy future and while we continue to increase supply and drive down costs for consumers. The Victorian renewable energy target is providing significant economic and social benefits to regional communities through the investment and employment created by new renewable energy projects. The increased target will ensure Victoria’s regional communities will continue to experience these benefits over the long term. Some communities have expressed concerns about new renewable projects, including the impacts of land use change and the impacts of planning and construction processes on visual amenity and noise levels. The government is actively working with all stakeholders, including developers and local councils, to ensure that communities are properly engaged throughout the life of projects. Best practice community engagement by developers will help to alleviate concerns about renewable energy projects and will ensure Victoria’s regional communities will continue to benefit from additional investment in renewable energy generation over the long term. The government has also published guidance for industry on effective community engagement and benefit sharing. The Community Engagement and Benefit Sharing in Renewable Energy Development guide is already being used by developers and improving community outcomes for renewable energy projects. We must continue to facilitate collaboration and goodwill between government, business, industry and our community to ensure a secure and sustainable energy future. We find ourselves at the centre of a shift in our transition to a net zero economy. The Victorian government’s renewable energy targets will continue to drive significant investment across Victoria, with the shared benefits of local jobs, improved environmental outcomes and local business growth. I commend the bill to the house.