By Tim Hall, Country Manager Australia, email@example.com
Whilst it is always good to focus on the positives, it is hard to ignore that Australia has endured some bruising months of late with bushfires, ash rain, dust storms and flash floods. The severity of these occurrences serves as an intense reminder of the threat of climate change and the need to engage more fully with all aspects of the green economy. It is therefore very worrying to find talk that some renewable energy developers are ready to pull out of Australia following a recent webinar from the Smart Energy Council. The problem for developers it seems is lack of support to clear bottlenecks in the process and a feeling of hostility from some in government. I’ve written before about local support for renewables and in this article, I want to look at how the state of Victoria is taking a proactive approach to renewables.
Victoria has taken significant action to maintain the shift towards renewable energy, most recently announcing a split from national electricity rules in a bid to fast-track much needed grid modernisation and to promote more large-scale renewables and more energy storage. The move is ambitious and may help improve debate on how to get past what has been dubbed a complex and outdated national regulatory regime. The proof of the existing problem caused by the existing regime came from a recent crisis meeting of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). The suggestion there was that some projects could be delayed by seven years with $6.28 billion in investment and more than 5000 jobs at risk.
The focus on grid connectivity is an important part of the Victorian plan. AEMO has already committed A$370m, but Victoria wants faster action on the grid in general as well as the interconnector project with NSW and another scheme for West Victoria.
Cracking the grid problem will be key to enabling a vast increase in renewable capacity especially in areas like that around Red Cliff, Kerang, Bendigo and Horsham in North West Victoria which has been dubbed the “rhombus of regret” due to its lack of transmission capability. Many investors have suffered due to output cutbacks around the rhombus and it would be a serious moral as well as practical victory for Victoria if the grid issues there could be resolved.
Victoria is an important state to get right. It is known as the “manufacturing state”. With over 13,000 manufacturers employing 280,000 people – to put that into context a switch to zero emissions energy by manufacturers in the state would cut 8% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Clearly achieving this would mean more than just renewable energy and could encompass areas such as sustainable procurement and better low carbon manufacturing. However, the key point is that in achieving its renewable energy goals Victoria would go a long way to helping Australia achieve its climate goals.