Last week the Climate Council released a comparison of each state’s renewable energy sector. The report titled ‘Australia’s Renewable Energy Race: Which States are Winning or Losing? ‘ was presented to a media conference in Melbourne by Professor Tim Flannery, Climate Councilor and John Grimes, CEO Austrian Solar Council.
At the other end of the spectrum is Victoria, which, although has excellent wind and solar resources, is lagging behind the rest of Australia.
As we approach the Victorian election Professor Tim Flannery called on both Victorian political parties to commit to a renewable energy target.
“Victoria now has the worst policy environment for renewables in the country,” the report says.
“Victoria’s new planning rules have cost the state an estimated $4 billion in lost investment and 3000 jobs.”
In the climate of uncertainty created by the federal government, Professor Flannery said states had a critical role to play. However some states, such as Victoria and NSW, were not providing the right environment for renewable energy generation.
In Victoria, just one in 10 homes has solar panels, compared with South Australia where one in four homes have solar panels.
Combined with the impact of current Federal Government’s attempts to weaken the Renewable Energy Target, Victoria’s restrictive policies make it the least favorable investment environment of any Australian state for renewable energy. Even though Victoria has excellent wind and solar resources, investment has dried up.
3,700 Victorians were employed in renewables at the beginning of this year, however, due to the current political climate of uncertainty, jobs are being lost.
This include the 100 people who lost their jobs, last week, with the closing of Keppel Prince, an engineering company based in the western Victorian town of Portland, which closed its entire wind farm tower division.
Victorian Premiere Dr Napthine said on Monday that coal would remain an important industry in Victoria for decades to come as it was the driver of the state’s main base load power.
“We need to continue to work with promoting alternative energy while recognising that coal as a driver of our base load power will continue for many decades ahead here in Victoria.”
Dr Naptine highlighted the need to promote wave, solar, wind energy, as well as his geothermal plan announced during the campaign for the state’s south-west if the Coalition is returned to power.
Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said he wanted to see more renewable energy and more energy technology jobs.
As Victoria has been hit by severe industry restrictions, a trio of Melbourne Councils are banding together to bypass renewable policies of the sate and federal governments.
The City of Melbourne, City of Maribyrnong and City Of Yarra are currently working in partnership with businesses including Mirvac and Federation Square aiming to open a dialogue with clean energy producers, ahead of a potential full tender process.
By joining forces, councils and businesses can offer a reliable demand for renewable providers to allow their projects to proceed, while at the same time potentially driving down the cost for users.
Renewable providers, such as solar and wind farms, will be asked whether they can supply the group’s combined 100GWh worth of energy at similar or lower cost than fossil fuel providers.
This 100GWh is the equivalent to around 250,000 solar panels or 15 wind turbines.
Leaders and Laggards
The Climate Council’s report showed South Australia is leading the Australian states on renewable energy sourcing over a third of its electricity from renewable sources.
With an effective renewable energy policies South Australia has become the most investment destination for renewable energy in Australia.
Since 2003, there has been $5.5 billion invested in renewable energy in South Australia, with nearly half occurring in regional areas.
Professor Flannery said Victoria had just as good conditions for wind and solar power as South Australia but was still too fixated on coal and was not providing the right regulatory conditions to encourage renewables.
Renewable energy projects can attract investment and create jobs in regional Australia. 21,000 people are already employed in the renewable energy industry in Australia which could increase to 32,000 with strong and consistent renewable energy policies.
Farmers and landowners in regional areas who lease their land for wind turbines also benefit through annual lease payments which provide a reliable, alternative source of income and help to “drought-proof” farms. Around $16.4 million is paid annually in lease payments for hosting wind turbines.
The Climate Council’s report released earlier this month, titled Australia and the Global response to Climate Change found Australia was lagging behind the world.
But after big announcements from the US, China and Japan, Australia has become entirely isolated. At the G20 the world’s spotlight was on Australia’s failure on climate change and the unfortunate fact that we are failing to step up to our global responsibilities.
Another significant announcement come from the Indian Energy Minister, stating that India may stop importing coal in the next three years
With expected growth in Australia’s coal market forecast to come from India, the economic proposition is deteriorating for coal.
As the Federal government seeks to weaken the Renewable Energy Target and lags behind on climate change, Victoria has an opportunity to provide a stable investment environment for renewables.
It is hoped that initiatives such as this first coalition of Victorian councils and businesses will lead to more local energy markets around the country that will directly boost renewable energy uptake.