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Monday, July 4, 2011

Victorian Government needs to come clean on plan to achieve 20 percent emissions cut by 2020

On July 1st 2011 the Victorian Climate Change Act became law. It was passed last year with bipartisan support. The Act sets into law that Victoria will cut the state's emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 based on year 2000 emissions baseline and empowers the Environment Protection Authority to regulate emissions from industry.

The former Brumby Labor Government had committed to partially close the brown coal fired Hazelwood power station, one of the most polluting power stations in the industrial world, and to introduce a generous feed-in tariff for large scale solar power stations in the north of the state to make Victoria an innovative hub for solar electricity generation. Although a full plan wasn't provided for achieving a 20 per cent emissions cut target, it provided a necessary shift to renewables.

The Ted Baillieu Coalition Government has retreated on climate policy for Victoria and negated the former Brumby government commitment to the phased closure of Hazelwood and has also committed to the HRL proposed new coal fired power station at Morwell using coal gasification technology. Emissions from the proposed HRL plant would be about 50 per cent less than existing brown coal pwer stations.

The HRL bid to build a new coal fired power station is dependant upon technology developed by the former State Government Electricity Commission which was licensed to HRL in 1995. That license expired last week on the 30th June 2011. The intellectual property of that license is worth some $385million but the Baillieu Government isn't saying whether HRL will pay up. The State Government has already committed $50 million in taxpayers funds for the building of the HRL power station.

If Ted Baillieu and Energy Minister Michael O'Brien hand over this intellectual property it will amount to corporate welfare subsidised by the taxpayers of Victoria, to support the coal industry and private electrical generators.

A small group of people from the campaign to stop HRL gathered outside parliament last week with some street theatre targeting the handouts to the coal industry.

Further, the Baillieu Government has imposed stricter limits on wind farm development which will impede the growth of wind generation as part of the electricity mix. Tourist areas and growth corridors have been declared "off-limits" for wind farm developments by the Government. A strict 2km exclusion zone around wind farm developments is proposed. According to a survey by the Clean Energy Council from 50 to 70 percent of current wind farm proposals are unlikely to proceed if this policy is implemented.

"In recent years, Victoria has seen substantial growth in jobs and investment in the wind energy industry, with the benefits being shared across many parts of the state. In the recent budget, the government allocated $2.5 million to map no-go zones for wind farms. If it is fully implemented, the state government's new wind farm policy will threaten the future of wind energy in Victoria." said Cam Walker in a Friends of the Earth May media release.

In the wake of a Senate wind farm report Friends of the Earth have called for the Victoran Government to drop the ‘arbitrary’ 2km buffer zone. "An arbitrary 2km exclusion zone would place unnecessary restrictions on future wind farm projects and does not apply to any other major development in Victoria – not even freeways which create far greater noise impacts. All we’re asking for is a fair go for wind farms, they shouldn’t face greater restrictions or more red-tape than other types of developments." said Cam Walker in a June media Release.

The Victorian Climate Act places a great deal of emphasis on carbon sequestration through soil carbon and forestry. A quick way to reduce emissions from forestry would be to curtail the logging of native forests. In 2010 scientists urged that native forests not be logged as the forests of South East Australia are some of the most carbon dense forests in the world.

So Mr Baillieu, how will the Victorian Government achieve 20 percent greenhouse gas emissions cut by 2020 which your party voted for along with the Labor Party?

Image source: Stop HRL - No new coal power for Victoria facebook album - More handouts for the coal industry

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