Nuclear vs. Renewable Energy

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Firstly, I would like to thank the Minister for Energy and Resources, Minister for Climate Action and Minister for – one of the best portfolios to exist – the State Electricity Commission for moving this motion. The minister and her team have put a tremendous amount of work into making Victoria the leader of the nation when it comes to climate change action. Recently the leaders of the federal and state oppositions have declared their support for nuclear energy, a position that is not supported by the community, the energy industry or in fact our laws. What I find amusing about the Liberals’ nuclear plans is that under both federal and Victorian law the construction of nuclear plants is prohibited. But in the words of James Carville, ‘the economy, stupid’. The CSIRO’s recently released report GenCost 2022–23 on the cost of electricity generation lays it out in clear language. Solar and wind power are by far cheaper than nuclear. Wind and solar will cost $83 per megawatt hour in 2030; meanwhile, nuclear energy through small modular reactors is predicted to cost anywhere between $130 and $311 per megawatt hour.

Those opposite love to claim that they are the true economic managers, but I am not sure how spending more money on powering Victoria is efficient economic policy when we already have working renewable energy in this state. Not only would nuclear through small modular reactors be far more expensive but the technology does not actually exist yet. The CSIRO has stated that there is ‘no prospect of a plant being deployed in Australia’ before 2030.

Theoretically speaking, what would happen if we built a nuclear power station? The CSIRO has argued that it would cost at least $25.6 billion to build a 1600-megawatt capacity power station. For context, this is a similar capacity to the decommissioned Hazelwood power station. The reality is that the estimated cost of $25.6 billion would most likely blow out. We have seen this happen in the UK, where the nuclear plant they are building in Somerset known as Hinkley Point C was estimated in 2016 to cost $30 billion. It is now expected to cost the UK at least $61.2 billion. The nuclear power plant that the Liberals are so obsessed about building would almost certainly cost us more than the pricey estimate of $25.6 billion.

Furthermore, in case anyone has any doubts, the Liberals have a terrible record on climate change. Since 2014 the Liberals have voted against or tried to gut the following energy bills in this Parliament: the Climate Change Bill 2016, the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017, the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Amendment Bill 2019, the Energy Legislation Amendment (Licence Conditions) Bill 2020 and the Energy Legislation Amendment (Energy Fairness) Bill 2021. By opposing Victoria’s renewable energy targets the opposition has risked thousands of jobs.

We already have several forms of renewable energy active in Victoria delivering energy to the homes and businesses of Victorians. It is cheap, it is efficient, it provides jobs and, most importantly, it exists. It is clear that the Liberals are only arguing for nuclear to distract Victorians from the very real work that the Andrews Labor government is doing to continue the rollout of renewable energy. Unlike the Liberals, the Andrews Labor government has a plan to address climate change while providing stable renewable energy to Victorians. Despite 10 years of failure by the Morrison, Turnbull and Abbott governments, in Victoria we have been paving the way on climate change action. We smashed our 2020 emission reduction target of 15 to 20 per cent. In fact we achieved a 29.8 per cent reduction in emissions, and just a year later we achieved a 32.3 per cent reduction. We have already announced that we will power 100 per cent of Victorian government operations with renewable energy. We have announced six solar projects that will help us get there. Everything from hospitals to metro trains and trams will be powered by clean renewable energy. In fact I was there with the minister, and the Deputy Speaker, when she made that announcement at Wilson Transformers in the heart of my electorate.

It is no secret that here in Victoria we have the strongest legislation on climate change in Australia. We are aiming for a 75 to 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2035 and to reach net zero by 2045. This falls within the Paris agreement targets of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. Furthermore, we have reduced our emissions more than any other state since the Andrews Labor government was elected, and we have also decarbonised the economy at the fastest rate in Australia. In our first two terms of government we have proved to Victorians that we are serious about acting on climate change.

We are leading the nation in adopting several forms of renewables, including offshore wind. Our offshore wind project is set to deliver 2 gigawatts by 2032, 4 gigawatts by 2035 and 9 gigawatts by 2040. Such projects are not only good for the environment but good for our economy. Our renewable energy projects are powering the economy, supporting businesses and creating thousands of jobs for Victorians. Last November Victorians overwhelmingly voted for a continuation of ambitious climate targets, once again proving that only Labor can lead the fight against climate change.

I could not get up here and talk about energy without talking about the SEC. The SEC is a vital part of our plan to deliver affordable, reliable and renewable energy to all Victorians. The SEC will help us deliver our ambitious and achievable targets of 50 per cent renewables by 2030 and net zero by 2045, and it will deliver 59,000 renewable energy jobs along the way. Many Victorians remember the days when the SEC was strong, but after the Kennett government completed the sell-off most Victorians saw their energy bills skyrocket. Several decades later Victorians, including those who were not even born when the Kennett government was in power, are feeling the effects of privatisation every time they receive an energy bill. It is why so many of my constituents and I reminisced over the SEC and were determined to see its return.

I am proud to say that after astounding support at the election the Andrews Labor government has brought back the SEC. By the end of this year we will be delivering the first project under the SEC, powering 60,000 homes and delivering at least 100 megawatts of power. Not only will the SEC deliver affordable and renewable energy, it will also create 59,000 jobs, and 6000 of them will be for apprentices and trainees. I am sure the team down at the Electrical Trades Union will be excited about this, as the next generation of electricians will be trained up through the Centre for U. The ETU are working in collaboration with Holmesglen TAFE to train the next generation of electrical professionals. Once again our government is taking action on climate change while keeping the lights on.

Additionally, we have invested $42 million to install 100 neighbourhood batteries in Victoria. This investment will support up to 25,000 homes in having access to renewable energy and bring down the energy prices for Victorians. In fact Victoria is home to one of the biggest batteries in the Southern Hemisphere. In my old home town of Geelong – go Cats! – we have been given 30,000 home battery rebates through our Solar Homes program. We are helping families buy household batteries, once again saving them money and helping us reach our renewable targets. We are already seeing the benefits of the Solar Homes program, with those who have accessed the program saving an average of $1073 per year. Additionally, last year more than 510,000 Victorian households and 49,000 businesses received discounted energy-efficient products and services. This is providing relief for the bills of Victorians while helping us transition our state to net zero emissions.

So why do the Liberals have such strong opposition to renewable energy? Why are they obsessed with nuclear? At the end of the day, it is because they and their mates are unable to make a profit from renewable energy like they currently make from centralised coal and gas. Meanwhile, we are putting power back into the hands of Victorians. From community batteries to solar panels, Victorians are receiving cheaper, localised and renewable energy, and of course we have brought back the SEC. Victorians voted for clean, affordable and reliable energy, not for nuclear power that does not exist. We are not looking for obscure forms of energy, as I have outlined. We are getting on with the job.

To finish, here we are again: every couple of years when things are not going well for the Libs, they float the idea of nuclear. Make no mistake, the idea is always floated at a time to distract people from the Liberal Party’s woes. On 12 May last week the Leader of the Opposition, in trying to escape from the nuclear wasteland that is their party room, said:

I don’t think you should ever rule it out.…You know, nuclear is going to be part of the mix at some point …

Well, what happened on 12 May? The Liberals tried to protect themselves from something quite radioactive – essentially tried to control a nuclear reaction. I hope the Leader of the Opposition understands the concept of half-life, because this radioactive member has not reached it yet. But one thing we can be certain of is that the opposition is in a state of exponential decay.

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