night time image of Melbourne Yarra and buildings

Victoria has again thumbed its nose at federal energy policy dithering, announcing it will enshrine its Victorian Renewable Energy Target into law and hold reverse auctions for 650 megawatts of renewable projects.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the VRET legislation would set targets of 25 per cent renewable energy by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025.

Mr Andrews also announced the state’s first competitive renewable energy reverse auction for up to 650MW of renewable energy capacity – enough to power 389,000 households, or all homes in Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley combined.

It is expected to result in $1.3 billion in investment and create 1250 jobs during construction and 90 ongoing jobs during the operational phase.

The successful tenderers for two major solar farms that will supply the Melbourne tram network were also announced.

Syncline’s Bannerton Solar Park near Robinvale will expand to 100MW, and French company Neoen’s Numurkah Solar Farm near Shepparton is expected to add 38MW on completion. It is estimated the two projects will result in additional investment inflows of $198 million and create 325 jobs during construction.

Mr Andrews said the VRET was expected to cut average household power bills by about $30 a year, save medium-sized businesses $2500 a year and large companies about $140,000.

It will also reduce Victoria’s energy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 16 per cent by 2034-35.

“The renewable energy sector will now have the confidence to invest in renewable energy projects and the jobs that are crucial to Victoria’s future,” minister for energy, environment and climate change Lily D’Ambrosio said.

“Government investment will be capped to ensure the best value for money for Victorian taxpayers.”

Environmental advocates cheering

Peak environmental advocacy groups applauded the government’s commitment.

ACF campaigner Suzanne Harter said the news “further embarrasses the Turnbull government over its continued failure to have a coherent and ambitious energy and climate change plan”.

Ms Harter said the states were being “forced to go out on their own” to guarantee a clean energy supply.

“This is the kind of action that we need to see nationally and then ramped up in order to meet our Paris commitments and stop dangerous global warming,” she said.

“Everyday Australians are paying the price for the Turnbull government’s paralysis on climate and energy policy so it’s great that Victoria is showing leadership.”

Environment Victoria acting chief executive Dr Nicholas Aberle said the first 650MW action was a “fantastic start”.

“Over the next few years, we’ll need thousands more megawatts of new clean electricity supply to replace our old and polluting coal power stations,” Dr Aberle said.

“Locking renewable energy targets into law and creating a plan to achieve those targets is exactly the leadership Victoria needs for its energy future.”

He said he hoped the Victorian Coalition party would take the legislation’s introduction into parliament as an opportunity to drop its attacks on renewable energy.

“Bipartisan support for the VRET would provide certainty to renewable energy investors and the thousands of families who rely on the industry, particularly in regional Victoria.

“The Andrews government is putting in place a smart plan to fix Victoria’s energy with more renewables, more energy efficiency and more storage capacity. This is what the future looks like, and we hope it will receive support from all sides of politics.”

Friends of the Earth had been coordinating the campaign for a VRET since 2014. FOE spokesman Pat Simons said the campaign brought together wind workers, solar home owners, renewable energy businesses, unions and community members who support climate change action.

Mr Simons also called on the opposition to back the VRET legislation.

“The Matthew Guy opposition appear increasingly out of their depth on energy policy,” he said.

“How can they be trusted to deliver for Victorians when they don’t understand the simple laws of supply and demand?

“It’s time for the Matthew Guy opposition to review their current stance on energy and climate change, and realign their party position with the public who overwhelmingly support investing in renewable energy.”

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