National Energy Retail Law (Victoria) Bill 2024

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It is a pleasure to rise and speak on the National Energy Retail Law (Victoria) Bill 2024, yet another piece of important legislative reform from the Allan Labor government that has been brought to this place in recent months. From the outset I would like to acknowledge the Minister for Energy and Resources here at the table for her leadership in this space and indeed her entire team’s work to make this package of energy reforms happen. Our reform agenda in the energy space has been as bold as it has been expansive, and it would not be possible without the power of work put in by the minister, her advisers and the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action.

Make no mistake about it, our record on energy speaks for itself. We are world leaders when it comes to the renewables transition. Since coming to government we have tripled the share of renewable power generation, not by accident but by strong intervention from our Labor government into the energy market, pulling all the levers to accelerate our transition from dirty, unreliable fossil fuels. We have held the country’s largest reverse auctions of renewable capacity, installed the largest battery in the Southern Hemisphere, just mentioned by the member for Bellarine – go Cats! – and supported 300,000 Victorian households with rebates to supercharge the uptake of rooftop solar. The results are clear. We smashed through our 2020 renewable energy target of 20 per cent, and we are well on track to meet our future targets. That is exactly why we committed to going even further in the lead-up to the 2022 state election, with our 2030 renewable energy target raised from 50 per cent to 65 per cent, and by 2035, 95 per cent of generation will be sourced from renewables. It is ambitious, and thanks to the Allan Labor government we are getting on and making it a reality, not with words but with tangible action.

We know that right now the private multinationals, which have made billions of dollars off the backs of Victorian families and businesses, are getting up and leaving. That is an unmistakable fact. Their coal-fired power plants are getting old and breaking down, so they are packing their bags and they are leaving the market. It is why we as a government are stepping in and bringing back the State Electricity Commission, the body those opposite sold off back in the 1990s in the depths of Kennett’s privatisation era. It is a government-owned energy company that is investing billions of dollars into 100 per cent renewable energy across our great state.

John MULLAHY: In doing so, there are three things that the new SEC is accomplishing. Firstly, it is supercharging our renewable energy transition, investing in more projects and more capacity in the system. Secondly and consequently, it is going to drive down the power bills of Victorian households and businesses, because more supply of renewable energy means lower prices. Of course as a by-product of our investment it is supporting the creation of thousands of great union jobs across Victoria, including for traineeships and apprentices. I know there is a power of work underway to establish the SEC centre of training excellence. The three things – more renewables, cleaner energy prices and quality union jobs – are a huge win for Victoria.

We are seeing it in action, with the latest prices of the Victorian default offer down 6.4 per cent for Victorian families and 7 per cent for Victorian businesses, driven by cheaper supply from reliable renewable energy. Not only that, but the Victorian default offer is 16 per cent lower than the average default market offer and lower than the national default offer too. Long story short, it means more money back in the pockets of hundreds of thousands of Victorian households and businesses as a direct consequence of the investments in renewables from the Allan Labor government. It is very simple and, dare I say, not like splitting atoms.

Victorians are big fans of our bold energy policy agenda. I heard that at the doors out in Glen Waverley during the last election campaign, and I continue to hear it loud and clear when I engage with constituents on their doorsteps and at the train stations too – what we should be doing in this place for the Victorian community. I am proud to be part of the Allan Labor government that leads with that principle, and it is the principle that applies to this piece of legislation before the house today. It is all about protecting Victorian families and businesses from the failure of the market, because when retailers collapse, Victorians should not have to bear the consequences and be cut off from the energy they need. That is what this bill is about.

Since 2007 we have had the retailer of last resort scheme. That has worked well to ensure customers of failed retailers have been quickly transitioned to another retailer, thus avoiding disruption to their energy supply. But with an increasingly complex market, we are committed to making the retailer of last resort scheme stronger. This bill adopts the national retailer of last resort scheme here in Victoria, providing a uniform and consistent framework for managing the collapses of retailers. What does that actually mean? Well, here in Victoria we have our own energy regulations managed and enforced by the Essential Services Commission, ensuring Victoria has some of the strongest consumer protections in Australia. But other states and territories have energy retail laws that are regulated by the National Energy Retail Law and monitored by the Australian Energy Regulator.

This bill takes parts of the National Energy Retail Law and applies them to the Victorian regulatory system. More specifically, we are giving the Australian Energy Regulator the powers that the Essential Services Commission does not have – namely, the ability to provide extra energy to the energy retailers of last resort. For example, if a Glen Waverley family buys their gas from a retailer that goes bust, not only will the Australian Energy Regulator have the power to seamlessly transfer the family over to the retailer of last resort, but it will also be able to provide that retailer of last resort with the extra gas it needs to supply that Glen Waverley family. We know that when energy retailers have gone bust in the past, retailers of last resort have suddenly found themselves needing to supply a significant number of new customers at very short notice. It is all about ensuring supply is maintained, which is a win for consumers. It is an important piece of legislation and will go a long way to ensuring that we have the best possible consumer protections in place for Victorian families and businesses, especially in situations where energy retailers go belly up.

On this side of the chamber we are about getting on and delivering tangible benefits for the Victorian community. If you will indulge me, the contrast could not be sharper in comparing our record to that of those opposite. When the Victorian Liberals last sat on these benches, electricity prices increased 34 per cent and disconnections doubled to almost 60,000. They dumped Victoria’s energy reduction target, they all but banned wind farms, with the strictest planning laws in the country, and in their last budget they slashed funding to the energy and resources portfolio by almost 20 per cent.

While their record is clear, so is ours. We are leading the world with the transition to net zero, faster than leaders like Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg and Canada. We have more than tripled the amount of renewables generated in Victoria, and we are well on track to reach 95 per cent renewables by 2035. We have brought back the State Electricity Commission, which is investing $1 billion in renewable projects, and as a result default offer bills are coming down by 6.4 per cent for Victorian families in the new financial year. I am proud to be part of the Allan Labor government that is believing in the climate science, taking action and delivering results for the Victorian community, and I commend this bill to the house.

John Mullahy MP
Author: John Mullahy MP

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