Victoria is one step closer to having its renewable energy target of 40 per cent by 2025 written into law, after the Andrews government’s Renewable Energy Jobs and Investment Bill 2017 passed the lower house on Thursday – albeit without the backing of the state opposition.
The legislation, known at Spring Street as the VRET, stands to be the first of Australia’s numerous state-based renewable energy targets to be enshrined into law.
It will lock in the state in to successive targets of 25 per cent by 2020, and 40 per cent by 2025, and underpinning its recently launched large-scale wind and solar auctions and other policy measures.
The Labor Andrews government claims the policy will create billions of dollars in new investment, 10,000 jobs and reduce the wholesale component of electricity bills by around $30 a year for households, $2,500 a year for medium businesses and $140,000 a year for large companies.
In a speech read to Parliament at the tabling of the bill, state energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said it would “underpin the decisive action that the Victorian government is taking to encourage investment in our energy sector and to ensure Victorians continue to benefit from a renewable, affordable and reliable energy system into the future.”
And in Tweeted comments on Thursday, D’Ambrosio said she was proud to see the VRET pass the lower house, and that more renewables would equal cheaper electricity and more jobs.
Labor’s #vret bill just passed lower house (LibNats voted against it) Thanks to all who campaigned for jobs, investment and clean energy
— Lily D’Ambrosio MP (@LilyDAmbrosioMP) September 21, 2017
The opposition Liberal National Coalition, in keeping with its federal and state counterparts, voted against the bill, leaving some doubt over its future beyond the next election, which is slated for November 2018.
Victorian Liberals & Nationals just voted AGIANST more renewable energy & clean jobs with the VRET. Remember this when you vote! #springst
— Ellen Sandell (@ellensandell) September 21, 2017
Opposition leader, Matthew Guy, has campaigned against the target, describing it as “political vanity at the expense of consumers,” and arguing that it will cause power bills to rise, rather than fall, as the government has promised.
And while Guy has not himself confirmed or denied whether an elected Coalition government would repeal the renewable energy target – or, indeed, what its plan might be to reduce energy costs in the state – comments by other senior ministers in the party suggest that is precisely what the LNP would do.
“This is a bill which is about making life harder for ordinary Victorians, because we have to understand the human cost of the moral and political vanity that is contained within this bill,” said shadow Treasurer Michael O’Brien in Parliament on Tuesday.
“Labor and the Greens say, ‘This is fantastic. Let’s go back to the Stone Age. Let’s try to get rid of electricity. It’s far better for people to feel the moral pain of paying higher bills, because that saves the planet somehow’ — what utter garbage,” O’Brien said.
“This is why this is a bad bill. It is why we will not only oppose it but, if this has the misfortune of passing this Parliament, we will repeal it.”
Outside of politics, green groups have welcomed the passage of the bill through the legislative assembly, and condemned the Coalition for its apparent ideological opposition to renewable energy.
“By opposing the VRET, Matthew Guy continues the federal Coalition’s policy of fostering chaos in the energy market,” said Environment Victoria’s acting CEO, Dr Nicholas Aberle in a statement on Thursday.
“The Victorian Coalition’s actions threaten investor certainty in renewable energy and the thousands of workers and families who rely on the industry.
“Under Matthew Guy, the Victorian Coalition has now delivered a trifecta of indifference towards clean energy and climate action. In the past 12 months, they have voted against a new Climate Change Act, voted against encouraging more rooftop solar, and now voted against large scale renewable energy – the cheapest and cleanest form of new electricity.
“The Coalition’s own plans seem to extend no further than using public money to prop up ancient coal generators and even building a new polluting coal power station. Their track record in government of blocking renewable energy projects and scrapping energy efficiency schemes helped create the problems we’re seeing today. Had they not done this, it is very likely that Victorians today would have lower power bills,” Aberle said.
Friends of the Earth also welcomed the news of the bill’s passage, saying it would bring the state a step closer to jobs, cheaper power, and climate action.
“This outcome is a big win for the community, the labour movement, business, and everyone hungry for action on climate change,” said Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy spokesperson Pat Simons.
The bill will now go the legislative council for the final seal of approval.