THE Baillieu government has refused to say whether it remains committed to an election policy of 5 per cent of Victoria's energy coming from solar power by 2020.
As the federal government's Climate Commission released a report finding Victoria could theoretically capture enough energy from the sun to meet its electricity needs twice over, the state government chose not to clarify whether it still had a target of about 2500 gigawatt hours of solar power generation.
The Coalition announced the solar policy shortly before the 2010 election, matching a commitment by Labor.
Energy Minister Michael O'Brien declined to answer questions about the target yesterday. His spokeswoman referred The Age to comments the minister made to the public accounts and estimates committee in May.
Asked about the target by the committee, Mr O'Brien cited an April 2011 Auditor-General's report that found state renewable energy targets introduced by Labor had not delivered expected results and that the proportion of power from clean sources had barely increased since 2002 despite hundreds of millions of dollars being spent.
Mr O'Brien told the committee that the best way to encourage large-scale solar plants was to help some initial projects get built. But he would not say yesterday whether the government was still committed to helping fund a Mallee solar park proposed by TRUenergy. The Coalition committed an undisclosed sum to the plant dependent on federal funding, but the company missed out on a grant under the federal solar flagships program.
In his 2011 report, Auditor-General Des Pearson found that the 5 per cent solar target could increase average household electricity bills by $23-$47 a year.
He recommended that the Department of Premier and Cabinet undertake a cost-benefit analysis.
The Climate Commission yesterday reported that Victoria received at least 2500 petajoules of usable solar energy on available land every year – more than double the amount consumed across the state in 2009-10.
It found solar panels currently generated about 0.5 per cent of the state's electricity.