While northern Queensland bites its nails worrying about what possible jobs could replace coal, in Victoria, the Andrews government is pushing full steam ahead with solar for residential consumers and igniting a whole lot of businesses at the same time.
Victoria’s budget last week included a $1.3 billion commitment for the newly formed Solar Victoria over the next 10 years.
Its new chief executive officer Stan Krpan is delighted to have stepped into another big green economic zone, after leaving Sustainability Victoria where he’d been for more than seven years as CEO.
It’s much bigger budget and Krpan is already familiar with the work, having kicked off the early stages of the solar program, which had received 32,000 applications for a range of subsidies and benefits over solar photovoltaics, solar hot water systems and batteries.
Part of the new program is to skill up electrical apprentices to manage the work.
Krpan says this part is very important.
Many people would by now know that any industry in fast development attracts its share of fly-by-night operators. Actually, more than its fair share, if you remember the insulation fiasco rolled out way too fast, to counter the impact of the GFC.
Krpan is determined to avoid a similar fate and is calling on old colleagues from WorkSafe Australia to make sure things go well.
For instance, all solar installations will have to be third party certified by electricians, and installers will need to be accredited.
What’s inevitable is that this solar boom will also sprout good business growth in ancillary areas.
There’s already significant interest coming in from manufacturers and installers, along with investors and the associated services business and assemblers, some from interstate, Krpan says.
Total staff at the new SV will be about 100, and they will be headquartered at Morwell in Gippsland from 2020-21. This is the town that is at the centre of Victoria’s coal belt near the now closed Hazelwood power station.
Already about 25 staff have started work for the new agency in the town and by all accounts are delighted to now work locally and avoid a two hour commute each way to Melbourne, Krpan says.
“It’s a big part of the government commitment of growing jobs in the Latrobe Valley that’s been the lifeblood of electricity for Victoria for a long term,” he says.
“We know with 80 per cent support for renewables and solar in Victoria and with 92-93 per cent accepting the science and wanting climate action, the government at the last election said it would support 700,000 homes to upgrade for renewable energy…
“But it’s really about how do we put power back in Victorians’ hands and make the state a renewable energy powerhouse.”