Energy Legislation Amendment Bill 2021

Let me contribute to this debate on the Energy Legislation Amendment Bill 2021. My comments today will submit that this bill is needed as Victoria transitions to new forms of energy which will not only drive down emissions but ensure we meet our emissions targets and lower energy prices for consumers. What I want to do in the allotted time is give some details of the bill and why we are doing this and then finally talk just a little bit about the leadership in combating climate change.

The details of the bill you have heard eloquently presented by the member for Wendouree and various other speakers. Let me just recap. Victoria’s energy system is rapidly transitioning as we pursue our legislated 2050 net zero target. Due to the changing nature of the physical energy network, largely because of significant amounts of zero-emission generators coming online, including rooftop solar, the regulatory framework must change to accommodate new technologies, such as harnessing hydrogen to help reduce emissions, and ensure innovation is supported.

This omnibus bill seeks to update and modernise Victoria’s legislative and regulatory energy frameworks by amending the Electricity Industry Act 2000, the Gas Industry Act 2001, the National Electricity (Victoria) Act 2005, the National Gas (Victoria) Act 2008, the Victorian Energy Efficienc Target Act 2007 and the Essential Services Commission Act 2001. The amendments to these acts will support energy, including in the following six ways: firstly, by implementing a regulatory sandboxing framework in Victoria which will mirror reforms to national energy laws, thus enabling innovative business models and technology to be trialled in Victoria.

Secondly, the bill is providing the means for Victoria by regulation to opt in to the new regulatory framework under national energy laws for standalone power systems. This government recognises the falling costs of renewable energy technologies and batteries, increasingly making SAPS a viable method for both households and businesses, particularly for rural and remote regions of the state and for the bushfire prone. New technology applications in the country will increasingly be a boon to the users. So that is the second.

The third is to provide the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change the power needed to make regulations settling the already published 2022 to 2025 energy efficiency targets and to set corresponding greenhouse reduction rates for the Victorian energy upgrades program.

Then fourthly, it enables the minister to seek orders relating to contraventions of ministerial orders to hasten priority transmission projects under the National Electricity (Victoria) Act. Fifthly, it will make necessary amendments clarifying the application in Victoria of previous amendments to the civil penalty framework under national energy laws. It will give the minister power to declare that any gas, such as hydrogen, is natural gas as defined under the national regulatory framework. Therefore one of the regulatory barriers to the blending of hydrogen gas into the gas network will be removed.

This then begs the question: why are we doing this? Well, I am proud to be part of a government that, unlike those opposite, I am afraid, takes climate change seriously—I mean really seriously—and has put into effect the necessary measures to help mitigate its effects. I am proud indeed to note that this government is leading one of the most rapid transitions to clean energy in the world. Not only has our leadership shown Victoria to be a renewable energy powerhouse, we are the leading state for renewable energy jobs and investment. The government’s success in driving down Victoria’s greenhouse emissions by more than any other state since 2004 is due to our ambitious renewable energy targets, direct investment in new technologies and a policy framework that creates certainty and promotes innovation. The bill is needed to maintain our position as a leader in lowering our emissions and to ensure Victoria’s legislative framework keeps pace with the regularly changing energy landscape.

Finally, under this little section, as well as ensuring our leading position in tackling climate change, the key aspects in the bill will promote innovative technologies and business models to ensure the next phase of the energy transition and importantly to benefit Victorian energy consumers. These advances will allow new emissions targets to be set for the government’s flagship energy efficiency program, the Victorian energy upgrades.

I would just like to finish with some remarks about the leadership in combating climate change. We have come a long way since coming to government in 2014, when renewable energy as a share of power generation had stagnated at a little over 10 per cent and investment had stalled. What an indictment of those opposite—fancy standing for that record. The government has stepped up to provide the leadership so desperately needed but which was found considerably lacking under the previous Liberal government. The government has done this by setting targets of 25 per cent by 2020, 40 per cent by 2025 and 50 per cent by 2030. These ambitious targets have been backed with Australia’s largest renewable energy reverse auction, which saw projects totalling 920 megawatts supported through the scheme. Again, the Andrews government’s sound policy shows the way. As a consequence of these measures creating much-needed investment certainty and encouraging Victoria’s clean energy sector to really get underway, the state has become a renewable energy powerhouse, leading Australia in clean energy, jobs and investment. These achievements must be of great satisfaction—and sadly disappointing for some who just do not see it.

Since 2014 renewable energy output has doubled, and our first renewable energy target of 25 per cent by the end of 2020 has been met. One notes that the pace of the transition is only accelerating, as illustrated by the fact that between June 2019 and the end of last year Victoria connected or started commissioning 1.6 gigawatts of large-scale renewables, more than any other state. Consumers are also benefiting, with our $1.3 billion Solar Homes program reaching 100 000 installations last year and expected to reach 700 000 by the end of the 10-year program.

Renewable technologies not only provide greater choice but they also drive down power prices, with the new renewable energy capacity that has entered the market contributing to a 10 per cent decrease in electricity prices over the past 12 months.

The government recognises that we are only at the beginning of the energy transition and that we must move further and faster if we are to take advantage of the plentiful opportunities associated with the transition. New technologies, new business models and new rules will assist in moving to the next phase of energy transmission and deliver even more to consumers. This is a piece of legislation which recognises that in order to combat dangerous climate change we must make changes to the current framework so we can not only take advantage of the new technologies but further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and drive down energy prices.

I will conclude with this remark: the problem is that we are looking at long-term gain for some shortterm pain, and that is always going to be difficult. Who wants to be part of the short-term pain? Everyone wants to be part of the long-term gain, but the short-term pain can be very, very difficult. And it takes courage for governments to say, ‘Well, I’m sorry, this is just going to have to happen’. And it is great to think that we got pieces of legislation like this in place that will help facilitate the process. But it is courage that is really needed here, along with these very fine statutes. I commend the bill to the house, thank you.