The Victorian Government's new renewable energy target sends a strong message about genuine jobs and economic growth.
This week the Andrews Government set the state of Victoria on a pathway to a much cleaner energy future. Its long-awaited announcement on the Victorian Renewable Energy Target placed a solid stake in the ground with a target to get to 25 per cent renewable energy by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025.
The Victorian Labor government also sent a strong message about genuine jobs and economic growth — the kind that can be created through aggressive renewable energy targets and a commitment that will transform the state’s energy sector.
The government's analysis shows that meeting their targets will result in production of 5,400MW of large-scale wind and solar plants built in less than a decade. Once realised, this clean energy boost will provide a 12 per cent reduction in electricity sector greenhouse gases by 2034; and along with climate, environment and health benefits, at least 4000 additional jobs in the renewable energy sector during peak construction in 2024.
All this while attracting $2.5 billion worth of investment to Victoria. This is good news for the planet and the economy. No doubt most Victorians, especially those living in the Latrobe Valley, will be happy to know the state is creating clean energy jobs as our old fleet of big polluting power stations get permanently retired.
The Coalition Government’s oft-repeated ‘jobs and growth’ election mantra starts to ring hollow in comparison. Renewable energy is a genuine growth industry, but it has received nothing more than a small package of funding, sprayed across key strategic electorates with lots of fanfare but very little genuine support for growing the overall industry.
The astounding thing about the Coalition’s position on renewable energy is that it ignores a tsunami of opportunity. For all Malcolm Turnbull’s talk of agility and innovation, it is in the renewable sector that the speed of new innovation, falling prices, and accelerating global investment have created perfect conditions to ramp-up the renewable energy sector.
With these policy announcements Victoria is putting itself in poll-position to capitalise on the clean energy opportunities rapidly emerging all over the global market – while the rest of Australia is in danger of being stuck in the pits.
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, global investment in new clean energy reached a record US$329 billion in 2015. By 2030, it is projected to deliver more than US$5 trillion in investment globally. Adding in energy efficiency, Beyond Zero Emissions has calculated that US$28 trillion is expected to be invested globally - significantly more than coal, oil and gas combined.
Countries that have seized the opportunity early and supported renewable energy growth, provide examples of what is possible. Yet in Australia in the Abbott-Turnbull era we remain wedded to an outdated ideology that is hand-braking our national investment and employment opportunities.
Germany, for example, which took a leading role internationally in growing renewable energy, has created a renewable export industry that employs over 100,000 people and an estimated export revenue of 10 billion euros.
Globally speaking, renewable energy has generated 9.4 million jobs, according to recent analysis from the International Renewable Energy Agency. While these numbers have been growing year on year, Australia has lost 5100 jobs in renewable energy since 2012.
Just last year over 400 jobs were lost and it is no coincidence that those jobs were lost after a particularly uncertain period in Australia’s renewable energy policy led by the Coalition Government’s attacks on the industry and the Renewable Energy Target. In 2015 Australia became the first developed country in the world to reduce its national Renewable Energy Target - from 41,000 GWh of large-scale renewable energy to 33,000 GWh in 2020.
It is predicted that far less renewable energy will be delivered in Australia in the next 18 months due to that reduction, resulting in nearly 100 million additional tonnes of greenhouse gases emitted nationally and $5-6 billion in foregone investment in the years to 2020.
The Victorian government has realised that it cannot sit on its hands while our planet is warming and our energy sector - both generation and use - is driving almost three-quarters of Australia’s climate pollution. Victoria has now joined South Australia and the ACT in committing to a net zero emissions target by 2050.
What this demonstrates is that it's not national leadership driving the required change. State and local governments are listening to their constituents seeing the opportunity and upping their commitments to a clean energy future.
The Andrew’s Victorian Government’s new renewable energy targets make clear the change that is on the way. It’s time for the Turnbull government to get up to speed with much higher ambition and national leadership to achieve it.
Suzanne Harter is a climate campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation.