The Nationals and Liberals Minority Report – Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Renewable Energy in Victoria
by Environment And Planning Committee
Download the full report below:
The Liberals and Nationals members support a responsible transition to renewable energy.
A transition to renewable energy is necessary to reduce atmospheric emissions and climate change. However, a transition to renewable energy is not without socioeconomic and environmental risks.
Despite substantial Victorian and Commonwealth government subsidies for renewable energy, wholesale and retail electricity prices have increased in real terms (7 per cent pa). There are many potential renewable energy options which the Committee Report has not fully explored.
The Committee Report focusses heavily on solar and wind renewable technologies and battery storage all of which may have significant environmental, social, and economic challenges when subjected to a ‘cradle-to-grave’ analysis of carbon emissions, recyclability, and safe handling of toxic materials.
Other forms of renewable energy such as hydro-electricity, clean hydrogen, wave energy and biofuels were largely overlooked in the Committee Report. The potential of pumped hydro and opportunities for energy from waste in localised circular systems were not rigorously investigated. The Committee Report failed to investigate emission reduction from improved energy efficiencies in industrial and household settings and increasing carbon sequestration via biologic and geologic pathways. The Liberal and Nationals members consider these renewable technologies to have the potential for greater local content for example in the Latrobe Valley and warrant closer examination.
The closure of Hazelwood Power Station resulted in substantial job losses in the Latrobe Valley. Over the last decade the Latrobe local government area (LGA) has lost over 5,000 jobs while six comparable regional LGAs each have gained about 10,000 jobs over the same period (see page 7 and 8). The Andrews Government assistance of $266 million channelled through the Latrobe Valley Authority (LVA) focused largely on liveability projects with one-off jobs in construction, rather than ongoing employment through strengthening innovation in technology and manufacturing, including local manufacture of components for renewables.
Closing coal fired power stations before sufficient transmission infrastructure to link renewable energy projects, adequate local component manufacturing and appropriate recycling facilities are established, has risks.
An opportunity exists to assist local manufacturers to make components for renewable energy and replace imports. Currently only 11 per cent of components for renewable energy are manufactured in Australia (e.g. solar panels, wind turbines).
The Liberals and Nationals members support the development of local ‘cradle-to-grave’ management and recycling of renewable energy components to ensure no adverse environmental impacts from the transition to renewable energy.
Victoria needs dedicated recycling for discarded solar panels. Victoria also needs to find an alternative to the resin used in wind turbine blades which contain a toxin (bisphenol A) such that the blades cannot be dumped into landfill, nor recycled, nor pulverised and secured within the concrete foundations of wind farms. Alternatives to current battery storage technology should be encouraged, given the energy intensity in mining the lithium, cobalt, nickel and other rare earths elements and manufacturing the components.
The Liberals and the Nationals support the following recommendations in the Committee Report: 1, 2*, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 19*, 20*, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29
The Liberals and the Nationals oppose the following recommendations in the Committee Report1: 8, 9*, 13*, 17, 18, 23
The Committee Report recommends a cut-off date for sales of new internal combustion engine vehicles. The Liberals and Nationals members consider that as new technology becomes available ie. electric vehicles (EVs), consumers will change their purchasing patterns without a government mandate.
It is necessary to ensure that in transitioning to powering transport with renewables that those having to travel long distances are not disadvantaged in that transition.
The Committee Report recommends the Victorian Government build separated cycle paths and that active transport opportunities form part of any new infrastructure projects. The Liberals and Nationals members moved an amendment to include infrastructure priorities to improve safety and fuel efficiency and increase road maintenance for regional and rural Victorians travelling long distances. It is disappointing but unsurprising that a Labor/Greens dominated Committee opposed this amendment.
The Committee Report recommends recycling schemes to accommodate recycling of renewable energy waste. The Liberals and Nationals members sought the inclusion of a recommendation calling on government support the development and/or modification of facilities to ensure unrecyclable waste be dealt with in an environmentally sensitive way at the end of a product lifecycle.
The Liberals and Nationals members are disappointed that the Labor/Greens MPs ignored an amendment to prioritise Federation University as the university of choice for skills and training in the Latrobe Valley.
The Committee Report states that gas usage for cooking, heating and industrial processes constitutes a ‘sizeable source of carbon emissions in Victoria’ but fails to quantify the emissions from domestic and industrial usage. Gas has a role to play in meeting peak demand in the transition to renewable energy. The Liberals and Nationals members are concerned that Committee Report Findings and Recommendations in relation to gas are inconsistent with the potential use of Green Hydrogen in the future.
The Liberals and Nationals members make the following Minority Report Recommendations:
Minority Report Recommendation 1: That the Victorian Government conducts a ‘cradle-to-grave’ analysis of all forms of renewable energy.
Minority Report Recommendation 2: That the Victorian Government adequately addresses community concerns in relation to wind farm technologies prior to any new land-based developments being approved.
Minority Report Recommendation 3: That the Victorian Government introduce bonds (similar to retiring coal fired power station bonds) for large-scale solar energy facilities to ensure sufficient funds are available for site rehabilitation.
Minority Report Recommendation 4: That the Victorian Government undertakes an analysis of the operating cost-effectiveness and socioeconomic and environmental impacts of battery storage compared to pumped hydro.
 * Attempted amendment.