Second Reading-NATIONAL ELECTRICITY (VICTORIA) AMENDMENT BILL 2020

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (16:13): I rise with delight once again to speak on another very exciting bill, the National Electricity (Victoria) Amendment Bill 2020. What can I say about following on from the member for Polwarth? It is great to see him up at the back there. It was a good contribution. I do not agree with anything you said, but I like the fact that you argued our case. I thought that was really special. I want to thank the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. I will come back to why I say that.

 

Mr Fowles interjected.

 

Mr FREGON: The member may not be a fan of wind, but there was a lot of it going on right then. There is a little wind farm coming over in Polwarth at Mortlake, which I will come back to in a bit, because it is a bit exciting for my area. I want to thank the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change for significant work that is taking our state in the right direction and transforming our energy generation and, in this case, our transmission network and giving us options. I would like to also thank the other members for their contributions on this bill. There are a couple on the other side I will probably come back to later, whose contributions again, as I said, sort of confused me.

 

The member for Macedon made a very good contribution before, because she explained that our federal counterparts have denied certainty to the market. I thought that was a very good phrase, because that is exactly what they have done. They have had six years of sitting on their hands—something that the opposition seem to do quite well. As a result the industry does not know where to go. They are not going to invest money. Business is not going to use good money on investing in renewables, which is what most of the world is doing. They not going to do that if there is no clear national policy. So I would encourage you: please, let your federal counterparts know. Please, let us have a policy. Even if it is a bad one, just have one, and then we can work from there.

 

Of course the member for Lara, who was in here before, was discussing the benefits of our renewable energy program for manufacturing in Geelong at the old Ford plant. Who would have thought that would happen? But it did because of the Andrews Labor government. Our renewables, our energy sector and our work on climate change is not just pie in the sky, going to happen some day; it is happening now, and it is happening now and providing jobs for the people of Victoria.

 

Our Andrews Labor government is known for its commitment to providing reliable, affordable and clean energy for Victorians, and it is delivering on this goal for all of our Victorians. We have introduced reform after reform which make our state’s energy system fairer for our communities. I can remember when the Energy Compare program was rolled out. We had gone through a process at our place already of changing our downlights over from the old halogen ones to the LEDs, and that saved us a fair whack just by itself. If anyone has not done that, you should do that. There is still a program going for that. But by going through Energy Compare, I think I probably saved about $500 or $600 a year—for about 10 minutes on the web. It is a fantastic program, and I believe the $50 is still available. If people have not done that yet, they should really get into that.

 

To that point, the President in the other place and I are going to be hosting some information assistance sessions coming up for the Energy Compare process in my district of Mount Waverley. I encourage all of my constituents to contact my office for details. We will book you in a time. We will take you through the process. These sessions are especially helpful for some of our senior or CALD community members by giving them access to the savings that, as I said, I myself became aware of thanks to this program a couple of years ago.

 

But it is not just Energy Compare that our Andrews government is known for in the energy sector. Last year I was, like others here, very happy to vote on our Victorian renewable energy target (VRET) legislation. It was a cracker. The bill we debated then has slashed the standing offers and made the process of understanding our energy bills a lot easier. In fact I have seen that a lot of the major energy companies used to have side deals where they said, ‘Well, you can save 35 per cent on the cost, but the cost won’t be the same necessarily next year, and then we’ll give you another discount if you pay early’. You needed to be Einstein to understand your bill. One benefit of the VRET is that now a lot of that confusion has gone, and it is a lot easier for people, when they get their bill, to understand where they are and therefore compare it to something else.

 

We have worked with our private electricity providers and will continue to do so. They need to have electricity available when we need it most. Now we will encourage the national energy market operator to find cheaper, more reliable sources of supply. It is worth saying that this bill will not replace the national rules, and we will continue to advocate strongly to improve the national framework, but the National Electricity (Victoria) Amendment Bill—this bill—will provide Victoria with a backup option where the national rules let us down. Again, that goes back to the certainty that we get from our federal counterparts. It just takes so long; it can take over two years for them to work out whether something is going to work or not. We have got projects that are online now. We need a grid that can move the electricity around instead of just the one way.

 

The member for Polwarth was talking about a lot of percentages and about wind farms that are this percentage and this percentage. I will take him at his word. The question is: are the lights on? Surely that is the important part here. He did not talk about that. I am going to presume they are. So as long as the transmission network can get the power to where it needs to at the time that it is needed, then the rest of what was said over there does not really make much difference to everyday people at home who just want to make sure their fridges are running 24 hours a day.

 

If we take a step back to early 2014, our renewable energy sector had stalled. The industry had no confidence in the Baillieu-Napthine governments of the day. Since being elected in 2014 we have allowed this industry to thrive. Today we have new renewable generators pumping out clean energy across our state, with many more developers eager to build. We also have major investments in grid-scale batteries, energy efficiency and household solar power that are transforming the way people use power in Victoria. We have got a strong renewables supply chain flourishing in regional Victoria. For example, for the first time in a decade, as I said before and the member for Lara mentioned, we have wind turbines being assembled in Geelong—local manufacturing, local jobs.

 

Wilson Transformers in my district of Mount Waverley are part of this future and part of the present. So I was very happy to see a 125-tonne massive transformer get on the truck and go to Mortlake, in the member for Polwarth’s area, I believe. This is local jobs turning manufacturing in my district into the energy of our future, and I am very, very proud to be a part of that, even if it is just representing them.

 

Here is the rub. The progress, this transformation to our energy future, relies on a robust transmission grid. We need a grid that is evolving to meet the demands of the energy system and has the ability and the efficiency to move electricity from where it is produced to where it is needed. That is what this bill goes to.

 

As I get close to the finish here I just want to go to the member for Warrandyte, who started us off. I thought his first 10 minutes were very good. I mean, he is always up and he gets about, and good on him. He said that the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) admits that the transmission network that is under their control is not keeping up. I agree. He also said that upgrades are important. Yep. He also went to, ‘We do need to invest in the transmission network’. Right again—three out of three. He then said that our government’s, the Andrews Labor government’s, record is here for all to see. Well, four out of four, member for Warrandyte. He is exactly right. That is why our energy system, our energy network, is on the right track. Our minister for energy is doing more in a weekend than, say, previous ministers might have done in their term.

 

There were others on the other side that, again, seemed to reiterate why we need this bill in their business of saying they oppose the bill. That was a little bit confusing. The member for Eildon did a very good effort—I mean that; she argued her case—but she did get caught out at the end laughing at her own lines. That is never a good look. I try not to do it myself, although I am sure I am guilty of it sometimes. I think the thing that took me the most is that the member for Ripon seemed to be happy with the inaction that we have seen from AEMO. That has got to stop, and that is why we need this bill. I commend it to the house.