News | 25th Jul, 2012

Blue over green push

25 July 2012
Shane Fowles, Geelong Advertiser

AN environmental group has slammed the State Government's green credentials after a new report showed Victoria had untapped potential for clean-energy jobs and industries.

Environment Victoria accused the Government of attacking climate-change programs instead of investing in pollution reduction initiatives.

It follows the release of a new Climate Commission report that found Victoria was well-placed to capitalise on solar and wind generation.

EV chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy said the Government had "turned its back" on opportunities across regional Victoria.

"So far, nearly every decision the Baillieu Government has made on climate policy has maintained business as usual for polluters or delayed investment in renewable energy."

Wind energy had been driving the state's renewable sector, generating 43 per cent of Victoria's green power in 2011, the new report said.

But wind-farm proposals had ground to a halt in the past 11 months, with no new applications since more stringent laws, including no-go zones and setback provisions, were introduced last August.

The report finds wind's current capacity is only a fraction of the total resources that could be harnessed, finding the relatively similar Denmark produces about seven times more onshore-installed power.

The state also has enough potential solar reserves to produce double its current energy needs.

Improving the credentials of "green buildings" through energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling measures should also be a focus over the next decade, the commissioners believe.

ClimateWorks Australia has found these types of improvements to industries in Greater Geelong – such as upgrading equipment – could save the local economy $8.7 million a year and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Climate Commission believes now is the critical decade to determine policy to encourage green-energy industries or risk catastrophic future consequences.

"We can't afford to have some of the flip-flops in the future that we've had in the past when it comes to policy," climate commissioner Gerry Hueston said.

"So it is important that we do try and develop an agreed bipartisan approach so that people can have the confidence to invest because … the opportunities are there."

The Government wants to provide incentives for people to install ceiling insulation, to cut energy bills and use.

It also signed a national agreement last month that saw it contribute $10 million for research and regulation into coal-seam gas extraction.

Chief climate commissioner Tim Flannery said the opportunities to harness renewable energy and ease climate change's impacts were there as prices became increasingly more competitive.

"We've got an ageing fleet of brown coal plants that are going to need to be replaced anyway at some point in the future, so there are real opportunities there for a proper, structured transition (towards renewable energy).

"We've seen all the old fossil fuels increase in costs for a whole variety of reasons over time, while the renewables are declining dramatically in cost," he said.



Read Environment Victoria's media release

Read more about the Climate Commission's Report