Victoria needs a renewables-led recovery

2020 has knocked us sideways, with climate-fuelled bushfires and a global pandemic. But we’ve also come together as a community to support each other.

Now, as our government is looking to rebuild Victoria’s economy, many of us are thinking about the kind of future we want.

We’re at a crossroads. Down one road we could have a future with a safe climate and secure jobs in a clean economy. Down the other road, we have a future of mega-fires, smoke, heat waves and drought as our governments continue to give a life-line to coal and gas companies.

The Victorian Greens are calling for a renewables-led recovery, as part of a Green New Deal for Victoria. 

Here’s how we could create jobs and help solve climate change:

  • Build big renewable energy. Let’s create thousands of construction, engineering and energy jobs by replacing coal and gas with big, publicly owned wind, solar and energy storage projects.
  • Reviving our manufacturing industries, but with renewable energy, such as upgrading Alcoa’s aluminium smelter and running it with clean energy to save 1500 jobs in Portland.
  • Weather-proof every home. In contrast to the Liberals’ $25,000 ‘granite benchtop grants’, the Victorian Government could offer energy efficiency grants to make sure every home in Victoria is warm, safe and affordable.
  • Solar for every public housing home. The Greens have campaigned for years to put solar panels on every Victorian school - and the Government has just agreed to do it! Now, let’s put solar and batteries on every public housing home to bring down bills and create more jobs for electricians and solar installers.
  • Upgrade our energy system so it’s fit for the 21st century and beyond. Our energy grid is in dire need of an upgrade so more renewables can be rolled out. Let’s upgrade the grid, and bring our energy system back into public hands. Our energy system could create profit for all Victorians, not just line the pockets of big billionaires and corporations.

A big build of wind, solar and energy storage

Under the Andrews Labor Government, Victoria has taken some important steps towards powering our state with renewable energy. The Greens were instrumental in the Government committing to a Victorian Renewable Energy Target back in 2016. We have a target to reach 50% renewable energy by 2030, with lots of exciting wind, solar projects in the pipeline. 

But now, we need the Andrews Government to commit to 100% renewable energy, fast, to replace our three old and unreliable coal power stations and phase out dangerous and polluting gas. 

Here’s how we could do it, and create jobs at the same time:

Fast track new laws so Victoria can host Australia’s first off-shore wind farm. 

The proposed Star of the South wind farm off the coast of Gippsland would create enough energy to replace a coal power station overnight. Building the project would create 2,000 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs during construction, and 300 ongoing positions.

Run a second round of the Government’s successful renewable energy scheme, but double the size.

The Greens were instrumental in getting the Andrews Labor Government to agree to a Victorian Renewable Energy Target, and it’s been extremely successful. The Government’s first-round purchase of renewable energy got six new projects up and running, and created 902 new jobs. Now we need a second round which is double the size, to drive 10-15 new projects and 2000 new jobs. 

    Build five new energy storage projects in the next five years.

    This could include big batteries, like the Tesla battery in South Australia, pumped hydro or converting heavy industries like aluminium smelting to renewable-energy, which can act like batteries, giving energy to the grid when we need it.

    Community energy

    More and more communities are wanting to own and benefit from their own energy projects, and are looking at neighbourhood wind, solar and batteries. We need reforms to outdated regulation of electricity metering, network connections and storage rules, so communities can take clean energy into their own hands.

    Let's revive manufacturing in Victoria - but make it clean!

    Victoria was once the manufacturing power-house of Australia. Industries like smelting, brick manufacturing and food production created jobs and helped to build Australia’s economy.

    Yet in the last two decades, electricity and gas companies have hiked prices and many manufacturers have abandoned Victoria, taking jobs with them. 

    Now is the time for the Victorian Governments to support manufacturers in the transition to clean energy, and here’s how it could be done:

    • The Victorian Government could fund new wind and solar projects, giving our manufacturing industries the cheap renewable energy they need to operate. 
    • These industries also become extra “batteries” in the grid. They are large consumers of electricity, with scope to vary their production, so they can reduce their energy consumption when the rest of the grid needs it.
    • The Victorian Government could also set a Green Hydrogen Target, to help drive the manufacturing of the future. Green hydrogen will be key for the world to replace coal and gas and get to zero emissions. Right now, we have the technology, but it’s expensive. By setting a government target, like we did with renewable energy, green hydrogen projects have the certainty to get going. Over time, green hydrogen will get cheaper and better, just like we’ve seen with wind, solar and batteries. 

    Innovative case study ideas, like the one outlined below, show that Victorian manufacturing can play a key role in our economy even as we go carbon-free. This innovation is already happening overseas. Let’s bring it to Victoria and reinvigorate our manufacturing industries. 

    Case study - renewable power aluminium smelting at Portland

    Alcoa’s aluminium smelter in Portland on Victoria’s west coast exemplifies dirty manufacturing, and its future is on the line. The smelter is powered by the dirtiest coal electricity in the world, from Victoria’s aging coal power stations, and its energy is highly subsidised by the Victorian Government. The smelter alone uses 10% of Victoria’s electricity!

    But the smetler’s global owner, Alcoa, is trying to lift its climate credentials, and is looking at closing up to four smelters around the world. If the Portland smelter closed, more than 1500 people stand to lose their jobs.

    The good news is: we don’t need to let this happen. It turns out the Alcoa’s 33 year old Victorian operation could take on a really important role in Victoria’s grid - essentially becoming a very large battery to call on as we get more wind and solar in our grid, while also continuing to make local aluminium. 

    So what’s needed to make this a reality? In short, the smelter needs 5-10 new renewable energy projects to supply its energy needs, projects that could be publicly or privately owned. It also needs a $50 million upgrade to enable its energy use to be varied so it can operate like a battery in reverse, turn it off and Victoria’s energy demand drops by 5%. This could be provided by the Victorian Government as a grant or low interest government loan.

    This way, when Victorian homes need more energy (like on hot summer’s days), the smelter can decrease their use, freeing up more energy and thus driving down the price of electricity for everyone.

    This would be a bold project for Victoria, but one that would really demonstrate our potential as a clean energy super power with good and diverse jobs for Victorians. 

    Set a Victorian Green Hydrogen target

    Green hydrogen is essential for the world to replace coal and gas and get to zero emissions. Right now, we have the technology, but it’s expensive. By setting a government target, like we did with renewable energy, green hydrogen projects have the certainty to get going. Over time, green hydrogen will get cheaper and better, just like we’ve seen with wind, solar and batteries. 

      Weather-proof homes, not granite benchtop grants

      So much of Victoria’s housing is not fit for our climate. Our homes often feel like glorified tents: freezing in winter and boiling in summer, forcing us to waste a lot of money and energy on heating and cooling. 

      Right now, lots of Victorians are doing it tough, and many of us are working from home. Electricity bills are skyrocketing - but we can fix this.

      Instead of giving wealthy people $25,000 grants to build new granite benchtops, why not use Government grants to upgrade every home to make them more comfortable, affordable and safe.

      The Victorian Greens are calling for:

      • Government-funded upgrades to all public housing homes, including solar, batteries, insulation, and replacing old and dangerous gas appliances.
      • Grants for homeowners and landlords to improve energy efficiency and replace dodgy gas heaters.
      • A big energy efficiency education campaign, to help people understand how they can make their homes warmer, safer and more affordable, and employ designers and communications professionals.

      These initiatives would employ up to 15,000 people in jobs like draft-proofing houses, double glazing windows, installing insulation and replacing gas heating with efficient reverse cycle air conditioners. 

      A huge home energy upgrade for all Victorian homes would reduce our demand for dangerous energy from coal and gas. It would save us on bills, giving us more money to spend supporting local hospitality, tourism and retail businesses, and helping get our economy back on track.

      Solar for every public housing home

      The Greens have campaigned for years to put solar panels on every Victorian school - and the Government has just agreed to do it. Now, let’s put solar and batteries on every public housing home to bring down bills and create more jobs for electricians and solar installers.

      Here’s what we’re proposing:

      • Solar and batteries for Victoria’s 24,000 free-standing public housing homes.
      • Renewable electricity for all other public housing homes, using solar gardens built on places like shopping centres and local libraries.
      • An energy upgrade blitz for all public housing homes - including insulation, glazing, draft proofing and replacing old and dangerous gas heating with cheaper, safer and more efficient reverse cycle air-conditioning. 

      Victoria has a clear choice in the way we rebuild our economy post-COVID. We can give taxpayer money to the wealthy, or we can use it to build better, healthier lives for everyone.

      Public housing across Victoria has been neglected for too long - with some residents in public housing in Australia even dying from carbon monoxide poisoning from dangerous gas heaters. Residents in public housing aren’t even allowed to have air conditioners, which means homes in Mildura, or even in high-rise apartments in inner-Melbourne, are roasting at over 50 degrees, forcing families to sleep outside on football ovals on hot nights.

      Fixing public housing homes, replacing dangerous gas heaters, installing efficient heating and cooling and insulation will improve the health and wellbeing of many Victorians, and save money.

      Bring our energy system into the 21st century

      Our energy system was built for a different era of coal and gas, and now it needs a major revamp that can set us up for the 21st century and beyond.

      Victoria needs:

      • A planned replacement of the state’s three old, unreliable and polluting coal power stations by 2030 with new wind, solar and storage, with proper transition programs for the Latrobe Valley put in place beforehand.
      • To buy back our transmission network and upgrade it to enable new solar and wind projects in regional Victoria to power homes and businesses across the state
      • A government-run energy retailer, charging cost price for energy and cutting out the big overseas energy corporations and middle-men who’ve been ripping us off for decades
      • Publicly owned big batteries and pumped hydro - to store wind and solar energy for when we need it.
      • A research and innovation program to pilot green hydrogen in Victoria.
      • A moratorium on drilling for new gas or subsidising any projects that throw a life-line to the desperate coal and gas industries. We’re in a climate crisis and that means coal and gas must stay in the ground. 
      • A research program into carbon drawn-down so that we can have the best chance of averting the worst impacts of climate change.

      Victoria needs an energy system owned by all Victorias, for our own benefit, and not for billionaires in energy corporations. Let’s do it!

      The Victorian Government has already set aside $24 billion to revitalise our economy coming out of COVID-19. Instead of giving this to big coal companies or billionaires - let’s use it to create jobs, build big renewable energy projects and create a better future, safe from the worst impacts of climate change.

      Our plan would create:

      • 15,000 jobs in weather-proofing all Victorian homes
      • 15,000 jobs in big renewable energy and storage projects
      • 1,500 jobs in clean aluminium manufacturing
      • And thousands more jobs in installing solar, energy efficiency and associated industries.