Climate Change and Energy Legislation (Renewable Energy and Storage Targets) Bill 2023

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I rise to speak on the Climate Change and Energy Legislation Amendment (Renewable Energy and Storage Targets) Bill 2023. Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the contribution made by the member for Monbulk earlier on this bill, an impassioned and reasoned take on the bill that is before the house. There is no doubt that the climate crisis is one of the most significant challenges we face as a state and indeed as a country and as a species. If it is not clear already, both in the science or in the lived experience of Victorians, the climate is changing, leaving our state exposed to increasingly severe droughts, fires, heatwaves and floods. We know that just last week many parts of Melbourne experienced the most violent storm event in at least a decade, and the evidence tells us that these events are set to become even more frequent and more severe. It is incumbent on us as the government to take action to keep Victorians safe, whether that is protection against pandemics or indeed the climate crisis.

On this side of the house we do not sit idly by and let the market flip-flop. We take strong action and make clear the direction Victoria is headed in, giving certainty to households and industries. Thanks to the Allan Labor government, our state is headed towards a brighter, more sustainable future.

We are meeting the climate crisis with some of the world’s boldest climate action, and that is something all Victorians should be proud of. But it is a journey that did not begin with the introduction of this bill, because this bill is one small part of our government’s rich tradition and bold climate action that started back in 2014 and continues to this very day and will deliver lasting benefits to generations of Victorians to come. Our landmark piece of climate legislation, the Climate Change Act 2017, was passed by this place back in 2016 and came into effect a year later, in November 2017. The act represents a significant step in our journey to bold climate action by enshrining our long-term emission reduction targets of net zero by 2050 into law. It also requires us to set interim emissions reduction targets and produce a climate change strategy every five years. Make no mistake about it, the Climate Change Act has supercharged Victoria’s status as a leader of decarbonisation not just in Australia but across the globe.

It is interesting to note, though, that not everyone wanted this to be the case. Some unfortunately wanted Victoria to remain in the Stone Age and linger under the climate incompetence of the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison days. The Liberals and Nationals voted against the Climate Change Bill back in 2016, and I want to recognise some of the former noes, including the former Liberal members for Box Hill, Burwood, Ringwood, Mount Waverley, Forest Hill, Bayswater and Ferntree Gully. They comprehensively rejected the science and then the Victorian people comprehensively rejected them, because in Victoria we believe in climate science. We recognise that bold climate action is a huge opportunity to transform our state for the better. Between 2005 and 2021 we drove down Victoria’s emissions by almost a third while our economy grew by more than 40 per cent, a case in point that climate action and the renewables transition is not economically crippling, like those opposite want us to believe. It is economically transformative.

This bill goes further by enshrining our interim emission reduction targets into law, including a cut of up to 33 per cent by 2025, up to 50 per cent by 2030 and up to 80 per cent by 2035. Importantly, it also brings forward net zero to 2045, which makes us a world leader and blows targets from the likes of the EU, Japan, Canada, Switzerland and Luxembourg out of the water. It is these legally enshrined targets that are set to deliver one of the world’s most rapid decarbonisations right here in Victoria.

We are putting our money where our mouth is. We know that energy generation is responsible for half of Victoria’s emissions, which is why the Allan Labor government has delivered $3 billion since 2020 to accelerate the transition to renewables. In Victoria we currently have just over 5200 megawatts of large-scale renewable energy projects online, but thanks to our investment we have another 7500 megawatts of projects approved and on the way. That will more than double large-scale renewable generation in our state, and it is in addition to more than 4000 megawatts of rooftop solar, much of which is funded through our terrific Solar Homes program. We are truly paving the way on emissions reductions, especially in transition to renewables. The best part is these are not just numbers. Our renewables investment is delivering tangible results to our community, and from next year all government electricity needs will be powered by renewables – everything from schools to hospitals and metro trains and trams to the lights in this building. That is a terrific achievement, and it is just the beginning.

The bill before the house also supercharges our renewable energy transition by enshrining targets in law. This includes an increased 2030 target from 50 per cent renewables to 65 per cent renewables and 95 per cent renewables by 2035. We are also enshrining targets for energy storage, with 2.6 gigawatts of storage capacity by 2030 and 6.3 gigawatts by 2035. Plus we are setting strong offshore wind targets, with 2 gigawatts the 2032, 4 gigawatts by 2034 and 9 gigawatts by 2040. It is a terrific investment in Victoria and in Victoria’s future, because our investments in emissions reductions will drive $9.4 billion of economic activity in our state through to 2035, supporting almost 60,000 quality jobs in the process. That is huge news for young Victorians looking to set themselves up for a brighter future and a sustainable career in renewables and also in the electricity industry.

And we are turbocharging those benefits by bringing back the State Electricity Commission with our initial $1 billion investment, delivering 4.5 gigawatts of power from renewables. Not only that but the SEC is focusing heavily on building up our skilled workforce and partnering with schools, TAFEs, universities and the union movement to create quality jobs for Victorians, including 6000 traineeships and apprenticeships. To get it happening the SEC is completing a detailed business case and preparation for the SEC’s Centre of Training Excellence, and we will begin implementation from next year. It is a huge win for our renewables transition, for emissions reductions in Victoria and for Victoria’s economy. Make no mistake, the bill before this place is all about setting and strengthening the legislative framework to make it all happen.

As a government we are already kicking goals, but we will not be stopping any time soon, because our planet, the Victorian community and the thousands of skilled renewable workers deserve nothing less than a bright sustainable future. There is a power of work underway in this space, not just by the Victorian government and the SEC but also by the terrific team at the Electrical Trades Union, and I am proud to be part of the Allan Labor government that will continue to back it all the way.

For these reasons and so many more, I am proud to commend this bill to the house.

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