Motion: Energy Policy

16 May 2023

I am really excited to rise in the house today to speak to this motion, which notes the overwhelming support for the Victorian Labor government’s plan to bring back the SEC and also to transition this state to 95 per cent renewable energy by 2035, installing 100 neighbourhood batteries across Victoria. In the process of doing all that it is creating thousands of jobs – 59,000 jobs – in renewable energy. I am really proud to be a member of this house and to support these initiatives and the importance of taking action on the challenges that are posed by climate change. The Andrews Labor government has set very ambitious targets, but they are necessary in response to these challenges. I believe it is a significant step going forward for our state and our country, and again Victoria is leading the nation in this space.

First and foremost, I would like to commend the government for their plan to bring back the SEC, not only helping to secure our energy future but ensuring that Victorians have affordable and reliable electricity. The SEC has played a really significant and crucial role in our state’s history, and I am excited to see it not only returned but returned as a leader in renewable energy. I remember how proud people were to work for the SEC. I had relatives in my own extended family who worked for the SEC. I remember them wearing their T-shirts with the logo on the weekend because they were super proud to work for the SEC and they were proud of the work that they were doing for the state. I know from throughout the campaign and since, after promoting the $250 power saving bonus throughout the community, how excited people are to see the SEC coming back.

People would talk about this positive plan with me, but the key issue here though was that people knew that it was for them. This was a policy for Victorians. It was putting energy back in the hands of Victorians, because the government will own it and the State Electricity Commission will not be run for profit or for shareholders but will be run for Victorians. Also we are going to enshrine the SEC in the constitution this year, protecting this, really, from the opposition. And I remember something very similar that we had to do was to enshrine the fracking ban in the constitution to protect it from the opposition.

As I have indicated, I am really proud that this state is leading the country in climate action. This government’s plan to transition the state to 95 per cent renewables is bold but absolutely necessary. By embracing this clean energy, like solar and wind, we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, we also know the government’s plan is to reduce those emissions by 75 to 80 per cent by 2035 with that accelerated target of net zero emissions by 2045. This is a really important global effort that we are leading on. By setting these ambitious targets and taking meaningful action we show the world that we are committed to being a leader in sustainability and climate action.

Having come to this place after fighting for a fracking ban, I actually know personally the level of interest and eagerness in the community to get on with this transition to renewables. It is immense. Communities who declared themselves frack-free were doing so to protect their agricultural land, their environment and their clean and green agricultural sector and to protect our food bowl. Again, with Victoria leading the way in this space in banning fracking, communities knew then at that point that the government was on a path to transition to renewables – and Victoria again is leading. These communities are ready. They are ready for this transition. They are eager and they clearly are ready, with that resounding support at the election, to have Victoria lead in this space.

Also, coming from a farming background I know that many in the agricultural sector are also working towards goals and assisting the state in our goals. Clearly they are very much at the forefront of climate change. They definitely feel the effects of drought, fires, floods, frost and disease, and this government has proudly supported our Victorian farmers with, for example, the $20 million fund to create climate action plans, innovation and technologies for the agricultural sector. So I think everyone is playing a part, and I am really proud and pleased to see farmers stepping up to that challenge as well.

Excitingly, too, there will be 100 neighbourhood batteries for this state – and that is super, super exciting. This is really an innovative approach to energy storage. It is our future, and we are grabbing it with both hands and taking it on. It is going to make it easier for our households to store that excess energy generated by their rooftop solar. It is going to reduce waste and improve inefficiencies. It is also going to help reduce the costs of households and businesses and contribute to that transition. This also is going to mean, though, that households will have access to that cheaper renewable energy even if they do not have solar on their roof.

At this past election Labor did make a commitment to have one of these neighbourhood batteries in my electorate in the local government area of the Borough of Queenscliffe, and speaking with local residents and community organisations such as the Queenscliffe Climate Action Now group, I know how excited they are to see this come into reality. I know that they already had a plan to do this, but they just know how important this is not only for today but for the future of their town. This neighbourhood battery that will be in the Borough of Queenscliffe is just one piece of the jigsaw that they are trying to put together and to realise at the Borough of Queenscliffe, led by community action, in a response to their Climate Emergency Response Plan, which has been adopted by their council. They are a very active community, they are dedicated and they are doing their own climate action locally.

This climate action and this community advocacy do take me back to those grassroot days of – excuse the pun – people power, where the community will take action, and there is so much power in that community action and community-driven projects, and I do thank all those that put their hand up to get involved and be part of the solution. So congratulations to the Borough of Queenscliffe and the Queenscliffe Climate Action Now group.

Finally, I will just sort of touch on this: the positive plan that we have is going to absolutely create opportunities for this state in terms of jobs, 59,000 jobs in the making for the renewable energy transition. This does represent a significant opportunity for our state to develop and deploy all of those new technologies and innovation and industries and to be that hub for clean energy. This transition, the investment in business, the training of new workers and the building of new infrastructure, is going to create these thousands of jobs, and it is so exciting for jobseekers, those who may be looking for a different career, students, tradies, TAFEs, businesses and future workers. This SEC is going to train the next generation of tradespeople – maintenance workers, electricians, welders, painters and mechanics – and what is probably more exciting for me as well is to see that these jobs will create apprenticeships and traineeships, delivering secure jobs for those young people as well. We will also establish the SEC centre of training excellence in coordination and accredit courses in clean energy and connect our TAFEs, registered training organisations, unions and the industry and, very excitingly, add clean energy to the VCE vocational major. We want secondary school students to get that experience through the SEC. So this is a little bit of a call-out to all those who want to be involved: we are going to need you, we want you and we want those workers to be getting involved.

In conclusion, I really urge members of this house to support this motion before us and continue to work together to support this plan to bring back the SEC, this transition to renewables, our reduction of our emissions and installing these hundred neighbourhood batteries across Victoria, creating thousands of jobs on the way. This is a critical part of our future. It is going to secure our state’s energy future. It is the future of our planet and our climate action, and I am really pleased to support this motion, and I commend the motion to the house.