Victorian Energy Efficiency Target Amendment Bill 2022 – Second Reading Debate

Ms ADDISON (Wendouree) (11:15): I am very pleased to rise in support of the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target Amendment Bill 2022, which will further reinforce and improve the highly successful Victorian energy upgrades (VEU) program.

I do want to acknowledge the incredible work over a very long time of our Minister for Energy and Minister for Environment and Climate Action. I notice one of her outstanding advisers, Dean Rizzetti, is in the chamber at the moment. The work that they are doing to make Victoria safer and cleaner and better is just extraordinary. I would also like to thank the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning for the work it does and for bringing this bill to the house, because this is making substantial change, and I am very, very pleased to be a part of it.

It is so important when you are introducing energy efficiency targets and amending bills that you really do bring your stakeholders along with you. We want this to be something that is embraced by the sector, and that is why extensive stakeholder consultation has occurred with the Victorian energy upgrade providers, with businesses within the energy efficiency industry, with the consumer peak bodies and with our energy retailers. More than 80 organisations and individuals were engaged during the public consultation, and that is just really great work. That is what we want. This is legislation that has gone out to the community, gone out to the sector, gone out to the industries and gone out to businesses, and I note and welcome that there was broad stakeholder support for the options presented.

Also, the consultation will not stop; it will continue as the bill is implemented. The department and the Essential Services Commission are already supporting our businesses and consumers with the implementation of the new VEU code of conduct. It is this Victorian energy upgrades program which is such an integral component of this government’s commitment to energy efficiency. The work is vital. We have a collective responsibility to address our impact on the environment and a moral obligation to leave a better Victoria for generations to come.

As I said, the opposition are late to the party on this and have no credibility, and talk is cheap. You compare that to we are doing, and I could not be prouder to be a member of a government which is leading the nation on setting targets to reduce emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 with plans to reach net zero by 2050.

We are taking action to achieve these targets, and we have runs on the board already. We have surpassed our initial aim of 25 per cent renewable energy by 2020, with 32 per cent renewable energy last year—an incredible reflection of what we are doing. The levers that we control we are pulling, and we are getting the results—32 per cent renewable energy last year.

We are also the only state in the country with offshore wind targets, complemented by investments of almost $40 million to support the establishment of three offshore wind farms. The member for Northcote said it, and it is worth repeating some of the incredible things that we are doing when we are investing in storing renewable energy—I am thrilled that the minister has just walked into the chamber—whether it be our big batteries, whether it be our neighbourhood batteries, whether it be batteries within homes, as well as supporting Victorian households, businesses and public buildings to install solar. We are helping low-income households to remove outdated heaters and replace them with highly efficient split systems. We have already published the gas substitution road map detailing our approach to substituting fossil gas. But there is more. We are implementing these energy efficiency policies and programs. We are creating jobs and driving down bills.

I am immensely proud to represent the Ballarat community in this place because the Ballarat community is taking action on the energy we use. I would like to acknowledge BREAZE, which is Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions, an incredible local group of energetic, forward-thinking people who are organising more resilient and sustainable ways of living on our patch of the planet.

This is not something new to Ballarat. BREAZE was formed back in 2006 when they held a rally, Walk Against Warming, at Lake Wendouree. Some people might remember back in 2006 that our beautiful Lake Wendouree, which is the heart of my electorate, dried up because of drought. It dried up because of climate change. So the people of Ballarat do not need to be convinced that climate change is real; they have lived it. They have seen the impact of drought and they want to take action, and BREAZE is one of the great organisations in Ballarat. As a government we are partnering with them to deliver solar panels at a number of Ballarat not-for-profit organisations, community sport venues and social housing.

When we invest in these projects and we partner with organisations, not-for-profit organisations like BREAZE, it means that local jobs are created and local businesses are supported. It is such a great thing to do because our local organisations can then instead of paying energy bills invest in more services for the community. The Ballarat table tennis centre is now not paying the same energy bills. They can buy more table tennis tables. They can do more. They can put back more into membership, which is a great outcome. So it is a really, really good outcome what we are doing, and we are saving the planet—just extraordinary.

The people of Ballarat get it. They have enthusiastically implemented energy saving practices, with 3500 solar home installations completed as well as 65 businesses taking advantage of the Solar for Business program launched last year. I am very proud that we have the sixth-highest uptake of any Victorian LGA, and I hope to see us climb that leaderboard even more. Fifty-six zero emission vehicle subsidies have been paid to Ballarat residents as well, while 280 local households have had an application approved under this government’s home heating and cooling upgrade program. Last, but certainly not least, we have seen a huge uptake recently of the bill-busting $250 power saving bonus, with many applicants going on to check and improve their power plans through the Victorian Energy Compare website.

This bill before us today will assist Victorian households and businesses seeking to reduce their energy usage by strengthening the flagship Victorian energy upgrades program. The VEU makes available to homes and businesses a huge variety of discounted energy-efficient upgrades and products. It has supported lighting upgrades, low-flow shower roses and weather sealing —weather sealing in Ballarat is so important; we have so many heritage homes, homes built of weatherboard and stuff like that, so this weather sealing is a really important issue for my community —energy monitoring displays, high-efficiency devices and much more.

The benefits are manifold through savings on power bills—$120 annually on average for participating households and a whopping $3700 annually for the average participating business—as well as through driving down energy demand and therefore costs for all. It supports 2200 jobs statewide and has reduced emissions by a massive 73 million tonnes since 2009.

I note with particular interest that in the City of Ballarat LGA 38 000 households and 2800 businesses have participated in this program to date. Especially pertinent for Ballarat at this time of year is that 8000 local homes have combated cold draughts by installing weather sealing with the support of the VEU.

This is an excellent amendment; I recommend it to the house. This is about us showing our colours. We support action on climate change.

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