The Victorian Government has followed up on last week’s pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 with the announcement of new renewable energy targets of 25 per cent by 2020, and 40 per cent generation from renewable sources by 2025, up from the present 14 per cent.
Renewable energy advocates have been quick to praise the announcement, which the government said will result in the building of up to 5400 megawatts of new large-scale renewable energy capacity and attract an estimated $2.5 billion of new investment.
“We’ve developed Victorian renewable energy targets that generate thousands of new jobs, particularly in regional Victoria, while also cutting Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Victorian minister for energy, environment and climate change Lily D’Ambrosio said.
“By making our scheme complementary to the Commonwealth’s Renewable Energy Target we are saving the RET. Investors have lost faith in the national target, but we are restoring the confidence needed to invest.”
Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said the market for renewable energy in Australia was heating up, and that the Victorian target made the state a “very attractive destination” for clean energy investment.
“Australia is about halfway towards meeting the 2020 Renewable Energy Target, which means many new projects will need to ink investment deals over the next couple of years,” Mr Thornton said.
“We have seen about 450 megawatts of projects committed nationally in the past three months alone, so this move by Victoria is smart timing – and should see Victoria claim a big share of the renewable energy pie out to 2025 and beyond.”
The government expects fulfilling the target will create more than 4000 additional jobs in the renewable energy sector during the peak of construction in 2024. It also aims to achieve a cut of around 12 per cent to greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity generation sector.
Premier Daniel Andrews also announced a reverse auction scheme similar to that successfully implemented by the ACT government. He said there would be both technology-neutral auctions and large-scale solar project auctions, to find the lowest cost providers for renewable developments.
Successful bids would be given long-term contracts to support their projects, providing certainty for investors, Mr Andrews said. The first auction of contracts is planned to occur next year.
“Growing renewable energy means growing jobs, and we want a big boost to both right here in Victoria,” Mr Andrews said.
“The world is shifting to renewable energy – it creates jobs, drives growth and protects our environment – and Victorians want to be at the forefront of that.”
The Australian Solar Council and Energy Storage Council congratulated the government for setting a 40 per cent by 2025 target.
“This is an ambitious but achievable renewable energy target,” chief executive of the Australian Solar Council and Energy Storage Council John Grimes said.
“This means jobs for Victorians. A strong renewable energy target means regional development, job growth and lower power bills for all Victorians over time.”
Chief executive of Environment Victoria Mark Wakeham said the targets would see the state double its wind power capacity by 2020 and quadruple it by 2025, as well as supporting large-scale solar in Victoria’s north.
“Across the whole country, the renewable energy industry was damaged by the Abbott/Turnbull Government’s slashing of the federal Renewable Energy Target. This is the kick-start we need for new projects and job creation across Victoria,” Mr Wakeham said.
He said the 4000 jobs the government expects the renewable projects will create are more than double those currently provided by the state’s coal-fired generation sector.
“Regional towns like Portland, where wind turbine towers are manufactured, will also benefit from new manufacturing jobs.”
Mr Wakeham said the legislation the government plans on introducing in the next few months to mandate the target and the auction process would be “a real test for Matthew Guy’s leadership of the Coalition”.
“The Victorian Coalition has appointed a Shadow Minister for Renewable Energy, but that will be meaningless if the Coalition is not prepared to support this tried and tested method of bringing renewable energy projects on line,” he said.
He also said that the target and auctions bode well for the soon-to-be-released Renewable Energy Action Plan, but said there was still more the government could do to accelerate the shift to pollution-free energy.
“We’re also hoping the Renewable Energy Action Plan delivers better incentives for households and small businesses to install solar and batteries, makes it easier to connect renewable energy projects to the grid and supports low-income Victorians to access clean energy.”
Mr Wakeham said the state government also needed to plan for the orderly phase-out of the state’s oldest and dirtiest coal-burning power stations, including Hazelwood and Yallourn.
The Victorian government is now the fourth state government to set a state-specific renewable energy target.
South Australia is aiming to produce 50 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and the Australian Capital Territory plans to be powered by 100 per cent renewables by 2020.
The Queensland government recently announced a target of 50 per cent renewable electricity generation by 2030.
By comparison, the NSW government has committed to “supporting” the previous national Renewable Energy Target of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020, but has set no specific metrics for the state itself, and the Western Australian government has a similar policy approach.
Neither Tasmania or the Northern Territory have any specific targets for renewable energy at this point in time.