Speeches on the Renewable Energy Bill

October 2, 2017


Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017

19 September 2017  ASSEMBLY  Second Reading  PARLIAMENT OF VICTORIA

Mr RIORDAN (Polwarth) — I rise this afternoon like one of the 220-metre steel-and-concrete towers littered across one of the most beautiful, pristine landscapes in the world — the world’s second-largest volcanic plain — to make as much noise as one of those things, because the bill before us today, the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017, is nothing more than a Northcote by-election sound bite.

That is all it is. It has been put up to try and win a seat that you are flat out trying to save. That is what this is about because no-one who seriously thinks they are in charge of running a modern, First World economy — no-one who is serious about providing jobs, opportunity and a First World economy — would want to give away baseload electricity and forfeit that for the feel-good, tram-travelling, latte-drinking set in Northcote.

Let us look at today from 8 o’clock this morning to 4 o’clock this afternoon. What was Australia’s largest wind farm producing? I can tell you, Acting Speaker Pearson, how we the people of Victoria would be faring if these clog-wearing wind farm fanatics across the chamber had their way in this great state of Victoria. This is what we would have had from 8 o’clock this morning — the Macarthur wind farm, slated in all the propaganda that we get day-in, day-out on renewable energy as powering 173 000 homes. Guess what? Today that marvellous piece of government and private investment, subsidised by our taxes, which was supposed to provide 420 megawatts, only supplied 85 megawatts — 20 per cent.

With all that infrastructure, it is like constructing a 50-storey building, only letting people go in the first 10 floors and leaving the rest to waste, but paying the full cost of rates, taxes and turning the lights and air conditioning on, without being able to use it. That is what the figures showed today. It did not power 173 000 homes, but 34 600 homes. The whole point of wind energy is that you sprinkle it all over the countryside, and of course that is half the problem, but that is seen as the solution. The green movement and everyone who will be criticising these comments today will tell me, ‘But all you have to do is build wind farms everywhere, and the more wind farms you have, the more baseload power you have’.

Let us go to another spot. Let us go to Portland. It is just down the road, out a bit further, on the sea. In fact I do not think anyone has ever gone to Portland and not had their dog blown off the chain. From 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. today the Portland wind farm is supposed to produce 195 megawatts — 125 000 homes. The propaganda tells us everyone in Western Victoria would be electrified with that great set-up.

What did it produce today? For the whole day it averaged 61.25 megawatts — that is, 38 750 out of the 125 000 homes. Just to throw another one in, Oakland Hill wind farm was at 26 per cent today. In the great state of Victoria, a policy and an energy position that we are rocketing towards at a great rate of knots is slated to have been powering 28 000 homes. Guess what? Only 8000 of them were being powered by that — 28 per cent. That means if we were to rely on what the government is telling us about its renewable energy targets, just in western Victoria alone, 245 300 homes out of 336 000 would not have had the power turned on today.

If we want to know what not having the power turned on means to businesses and communities, let us look at what happened on Saturday at Lorne, a great little town in my electorate. All the bike-riding fraternity came down to Lorne for A Metre Matters. They came down to Lorne for the biggest cycling festival in the country; 5500 people descended on Lorne for the day. It was going to be a brilliant weekend for the traders and the restaurateurs. They had had a quiet three months of winter with not many crowds around. Every hotel was booked out, every piece of accommodation booked. Guess what happened at 6.05 p.m. on Saturday, with 5500 visitors in a little country town?

Mr Paynter — Don’t tell me the lights went out.

Mr RIORDAN — The lights went out. There was no infrastructure to manage the fact that at the same time everyone finished riding their bikes, took their lycra off, had a shower, turned the heater on and — bang! — popped the fuse. Poor little Lorne was without any power at all until after midnight.

The whole economic benefit was lost. It cost the pub alone $60 000. Just for our friends over the way who are used to swanning around in suburbs and do not need to worry about power because they will just go to the next one if the power goes off, it does not work like that in a country town. When the power goes out, there are no automatic teller machines and no EFTPOS machines. Doors do not open and restaurants cannot operate. The cumulative damage to that little town was in excess of a quarter of a million dollars in one night. That is money that the town will never recoup. People’s lives were really affected, and that is because of poor energy policy. That is what the state has to look forward to this summer as we rocket towards not understanding that our economy cannot survive when the lights go out.

So why is this ringing so true across western Victoria when we can see enormous investment going hell for leather and promoted by government? It is really selling a pup. We are going out and saying to landowners, ‘Look, things get tough in agriculture, so you need to take these wind farm opportunities because if you take these up, it will solve all your problems on the farm. It will be marvellous’. A lot of people in western Victoria think back a little bit and say, ‘This sounds a bit like those managed investment schemes and blue gums that we all got suckered into about five or six years ago’. What happened there? These blue gums were going to be fantastic. They were going to solve all your farming problems. You were going to be able to go and buy a house on the coast and retire from farming and the revenue would roll in.

What is going to happen with these wind farms, do we think? On average, from the ones I have experienced across Polwarth, we have the guy who wants the permit. Some two-bit overseas company comes in, and they do all the running around and they sell. They have got steak knives. They drive around in Renaults — probably hybrid Renaults — with steak knives in the boot and probably a couple of subscriptions to Reader’s Digest. They run around knocking on doors, telling people, ‘You will have an income stream for the rest of your life if you sign up to this’. They like that, and then they sell that package onto someone else. They make a quick few million dollars out of that, and they move to the next guy. The next guy says, ‘Well, you know, they were the promises the last guy made, but I am not sure we can contribute to that as well. We are going to change. We are going to make the towers a little bit taller. We might take a few off you, and you might not get quite as much money’. That is how the whole thing will operate when the wind farm starts, because these things have a 25-year life and we know what happens with limited life expectancy in any industrial equipment: of course you never want to be the last man standing when it comes to owning these things. So we can see and the people can see that down the track it is going the same way as the managed investment schemes.

What this policy does is it puts all the eggs in one basket. The state of Victoria needs good, solid, reliable energy targets. It does not need ridiculous energy targets. This is a ridiculous energy target. It is unrealistic, and it ignores the fact that we are not in Denmark and we are not in Germany. If we hear one more quoted example about how wonderful wind turbines are in the Danish countryside and the German countryside — I have been to these places and I can tell you that I have not seen anywhere in Europe wind farms done the way that we are doing them here in this great state of Victoria. We are building massive industrial systems from one end of the state to the other. We will pay a price for it. It is affecting communities, and it needs to be done better.

This policy, this bill that we are talking about today, talks nothing about the human impact of creating this renewable energy target. It does not talk about how it is going to work in communities, and it does not offer real long-term solutions to the other renewal options. We know renewable energy needs to be part of our energy system, but at the same time we have to keep the lights on and we have to keep Victoria operating. As it stands, I cannot support this bill.


Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017

21 September 2017  ASSEMBLY  Consideration in detail  PARLIAMENT OF VICTORIA

Mr RIORDAN (Polwarth) — Minister, at 4.30 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon, looking at the National Electricity Market (NEM) website, I can see the wind assets that this state currently has are all running at about 10 per cent capacity and our coal and gas plants are all running at 100 per cent capacity. Considering that there is a huge investment in resources in an energy system that is not being very productive on a randomly picked of a day of the week, what emphasis or weighting will the government give in its support of renewable projects, which the community is after, that will have a focus on being able to provide much greater reliability and consistency than 10 per cent in the middle of the afternoon in a busy work week?