Central and northern Victorian MPs state clear differences on Victoria's Renewable Energy Target

The Coonooer Bridge wind farm, south of Charlton, is one of a number in the electorate of Ripon.
The Coonooer Bridge wind farm, south of Charlton, is one of a number in the electorate of Ripon.

Related: Benefits in Bendigo from renewables focus

MORE jobs? Higher power bills? A cleaner future? Electricity grid uncertainty?

Depending on where they stood, central and northern Victorian MPs had very different interpretations of the Victorian government’s plans to introduce a renewable energy target.

The proposed laws were debated in the lower house on Tuesday, and local MPs were among the most vocal in their support and opposition.

The Victorian RET plans to cut emissions by 25 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025, including an initial auction for 650 megawatts of renewable energy.

Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said it was up to Victoria to take the lead after years of inaction from the federal government.

“Our renewable energy target and our investment in battery storage and energy efficiency are boosting supply, improving reliability and ensuring we have enough power to meet that demand,” she said.

Ms Edwards said the RET would result in more manufacturing jobs in Bendigo, where she expects the gearboxes in wind turbines would be produced.

Bendigo’s old mine shafts could also be used to generate renewable energy. The Bendigo Sustainability Group will host a pilot site for the project.

Ms Edwards said the RET would bring down power prices while creating jobs in new renewable energy industries.

“We know the Victorian RET will create 11 000 jobs,” she said.

Maree Edwards believes Bendigo could benefit from the renewable energy target. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Maree Edwards believes Bendigo could benefit from the renewable energy target. Picture: DARREN HOWE

“We know that; the modelling has been done. It will attract as much as $9 billion in new investment.”

But Coalition MPs were not so sure, and they reiterated their policy to scrap the Victorian RET if they win the next election in November next year.

Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh said it was misguided to think coal would not play a part in Australia’s future energy needs, as more coal power plants are being built in China, India and Indonesia.

He said he had constituents who were growing increasingly concerned about their rising power bills – something he believes will be made worse by the Victorian RET.

“I have a group of food processors in northern Victoria that I have been working with for six to nine months now who are very, very concerned about their increased energy costs,” Mr Walsh said.

“This group represents 10,000 jobs.

“They have been saying to me, 'If these energy costs are the future, we will be out of business'.”

Ripon MP Louise Staley, whose electorate hosts 247 wind turbines with a further 280 proposed, said they were not welcomed by everybody.

“There are of course benefits that come from wind farms, and the major benefits go to host landholders,” she said.

“The number of landholders who host wind farms is very low out of the total proportion of landholders.

“We have some very big winners and many, many losers.”

The legislation has the backing of the Greens and is expected to pass through parliament.