Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Amendment Bill 2019 Second Reading

28 Aug 2019

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I rise to speak on the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Amendment Bill 2019, which the Greens strongly support. This bill will set an additional target to the Victorian renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030. Before I move on, it is worth going into a bit of history about the Victorian renewable energy target in Victoria. From my understanding, in Victoria it was introduced under a previous Labor government and then dialled back to zero when the Liberal government was elected in 2010. Of course that was the government that had the worst environment and climate record of any government in Victorian history.

Ms Ryan interjected.

Mr HIBBINS: It is on the record; it is not just me. Anyone with a shred of interest in the environment is on the record saying that at the time. I will not go through the shopping list of environmental issues that Victoria faced at that time, but at that point leading into the 2014 election it was actually only the Victorian Greens that had a policy of re-establishing the Victorian renewable energy target. That was because at the time the federal law prohibited a state from having its own renewable energy target that was similar to the federal scheme, and so we did not have a policy of a Victorian renewable energy target from either of the other parties going into that election.

In this Parliament the member for Melbourne was very knowledgeable in this area and was a very strong advocate for Victoria to have its own renewable energy target. We had the Abbott federal government at the time. Of course they were not really pursuing the strongest of climate policies at that time, so it was as important as it is now for Victoria to adopt a very strong renewable energy target. First, the current government pushed back and said, ‘No, look, we’ve got to change this law. We’ve got to change the law at a federal level’—I think it was section 7C of the federal Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000.

The member for Melbourne quite rightly pointed out that, no, you did not actually have to change the law at a federal level; you just had to design a scheme that was not similar to the federal scheme. Of course that was what they were doing in the ACT at the time with a Labor-Greens government, and that is now what we are seeing in the scheme that has been adopted by the Victorian government, and quite rightly so. As has been pointed out by the member for Brunswick and in fact by the Australian Energy Market Operator report, Victoria is going to reach 50 per cent renewable energy by 2029, so right now we are passing a law that essentially we know we are going to meet anyway, regardless—business as usual. So that is why I am strongly supporting the amendments put forward by the member for Brunswick to increase the Victorian renewable energy target to 100 per cent by 2030.

This is something that needs to happen for our climate, and importantly it is something that can happen. It is actually something that can happen. We have heard criticisms from the opposition on why we should not even have a target in place—reliability and cost and prices—and then someone has made a few interjections and a few statements that, ‘One hundred per cent? Oh well, that couldn’t happen’. But it is important to note that this can actually happen. At this point in history we are already experiencing the effects of climate change—drought, bushfires, sea level rises, storms, floods.

I think it has just been reported that we have now had three years of low rainfall in Gippsland, increasing the risk of bushfire. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is saying that we have a decade or so to prevent catastrophic and permanent damage from climate change and to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. More and more people are concerned about climate change. We have got students taking to the streets. And it is not just about people who protest. As anyone who went around doorknocking or making calls during the election knows, this is an issue that is on people’s minds.

Here in Victoria around about half of our emissions come from energy and come from coal-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley. As the member for Brunswick pointed out, right now we are getting 25 per cent of our energy from renewables and 75 per cent from fossil fuels. So the point needs to be made that, yes, we are adding more renewables and the renewable energy target as it stands will do that, but our coal-fired power stations are going to continue burning coal. What really took my notice was the second-reading speech, which points out that this bill, if it comes into effect, will: reduce Victoria’s emissions from electricity generation in 2030 from 35.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide … to 33.9 Mt— a reduction of 2 million tonnes.

What that is telling you is, even with the law as it stands now, we are still going to be pumping tonnes of greenhouse gases into the air. What do we need to do? We do absolutely need to as soon as possible phase out and replace coal-fired power stations in Victoria. Yallourn, the most polluting coal-fired power station in the country, is not slated to close until after 2030; Loy Yang A and Loy Yang B, not until 2048, so not next decade, not the decade after that but the decade after that. That is why we do need to go to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030. It is possible. It is in fact desirable to put in place a time frame to phase out coal-fired power stations. It is good for everyone.

It is not like Hazelwood where communities only had months to put in place plans. If you put in place a time line now, that would be good for local economies because you could plan investments and it would be good for certainty for those communities. Yes, we can get significant amounts of renewables over that time to bring us up to 100 per cent. I think we are missing out in Victoria currently, and something that it is in the Greens plan for 100 per cent renewable energy is big publicly owned solar. If we look at energy generation in Victoria when we had the State Electricity Commission of Victoria and publicly owned coal-fired power stations and recall the problems we had through privatisation, which started in the 1980s under Labor and then continued, rammed through under Jeff Kennett, we know that was bad for jobs and bad for those communities.

Now we put essentially our future in the hands of the market and private operators. When this government is asked about coal-fired power stations, they say, ‘Well, it’s up to the market’, and that is kind of singing from the same song sheet as the coalition. We cannot leave it up to the market. That is why we need a Victorian renewable energy target—we need a strong renewable energy target. I think part of our plan, to build big publicly owned solar and big publicly owned batteries across Victoria, is absolutely critical. I think it is disappointing—absolutely disappointing—that in some respects we are going a bit backwards in that this government is supporting new fossil fuel energy projects here in Victoria.

It is incredibly disappointing that at this time in history when we are debating the renewable energy target, one of the most important climate change bills to come before this Parliament—and the Greens have an amendment to increase the renewable energy target to take us to 100 per cent renewables—that unless we go into a third reading, which we have not been given any indication on that that is going to occur, we cannot even bring it to a vote. What a disappointment. You have got so many people out there cynical about democracy and cynical about whether we can actually solve this and it is not even coming to a vote in this house.

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