EEC chief executive Rob Murray-Leach

18 March 2014 — The Victorian Energy Efficiency Target has become the latest scheme to be threatened with closure, in what seems to be a worrying trend of conservative News Limited papers launching selective attacks on former Labor government programs.

The move follows an article in the Herald Sun, which quoted leaked sections of an unreleased government report into the scheme.

The Herald Sun stated that the VEET program could raise the bills of those who were not participating in the “green scheme” by up to $62 by a year by 2017. It also noted the program had only abated eight million tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2009 and 2012, instead of the estimated 16.7 million tonnes.

The Energy Efficiency Council said the figures, from a “secret government report” were troubling, because the content of the report is unavailable and unable to be verified, and the positive aspects of the VEET go unmentioned.

The Herald Sun said the report recommended the program be closed at the end of 2015.

The Energy Efficiency Council said “misrepresentative data” had been leaked.

“Victorians want action on energy efficiency to keep their bills low,” said EEC chief executive Rob Murray-Leach. “The Victorian Energy Efficiency Target isn’t a ‘green scheme’ – it’s about keeping energy affordable. So far, the program has helped over 1.3 million Victorian homes and businesses save energy and reduce their bills. Why would you want to cut it back?”

In 2013, the Victorian government started a review, which was required by legislation, into the VEET. However, the findings have not been made public.

“The Napthine Government has failed to release its overdue review of the VEET, and instead some misleading data has been leaked to a journalist on the outgoing energy minister’s last day,” Mr Murray-Leach said. “This is outrageous and irresponsible behaviour that threatens thousands of jobs around the state.

“The leak is a few cherry-picked statements that only look at the costs, not the benefits, and are totally contradicted by more robust national work that has found only modest costs and billions of dollars of benefits.”

President of the Energy Efficiency Certificate Creators Association Bruce Easton said he was stunned to learn that the outcome of the review may have already been pre-empted.

“We call on [energy minister Russell Northe] to release [the government] report on the Scheme review and to work with the sector in ensuring a continuation of a Scheme that has contributed to Victoria’s economy,” Mr Easton said.

He agreed that the figures in the report were troubling.

“These are strange statistics and at odds with other modelling,” Mr Easton said.

“Economic analysis undertaken for the National Energy Efficiency Initiative released in 2013 shows there were $2.2 billion of net economic benefits from a national energy efficiency scheme representing a significant $500 million of economic benefits for Victoria.”

There was significant pressure from the electricity generator lobby to get rid of the scheme, Mr Easton said, but suggestions the scheme would inflate energy prices were incorrect.

“On the contrary, VEET puts downward pressure on power prices as it reduces electricity demand,” he said. “This is supported by AEMC data that shows not only is consumption reduced directly as a result of these schemes, but the pass on cost to consumers is only 0.26 cents per kilowatt-hour, outweighed by the lower wholesale cost of electricity.”

Mr Easton said the scheme had provided $550 million in savings for Victoria, assisted households and business to reduce energy bills and reduced overall demand for electricity.

“There is no justification for abolition and every reason to continue the Scheme at the existing target of energy reductions. This scheme has been a success and continuation will keep existing and create new job opportunities for activities particularly, as it expands further into the business sector.”