Ted Baillieu – Premier of Victoria or coal industry rep?

Ted Baillieu with fellow climate change denialist Tony Abbott (Picture: John Hargest)

The fossil fuel industry is sure getting their money’s worth with Ted Baillieu and his Liberal/National Party Government.

In Ted Baillieu’s Victoria, building a wind farm is now almost impossible and the feed-in tariff for solar panels has been cut by over 50%. However, building a coal mine 800m from a primary school is OK, and if a mining company wants to dig for coal or drill for gas in your backyard, polluting our land, water and air, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Last week the Baillieu Government attacked renewable energy on two fronts. First, they introduced new planning laws that allow anyone within 2km of a proposed wind farm to veto the proposal. The Clean Energy Council estimates that this will cost Victoria $3.6 billion and thousands of jobs, as wind energy companies move to other states and other countries. Victoria’s population density means that it will be virtually impossible to build any more large-scale wind farms beyond the ones which already have planning approval.

However, destroying the wind energy industry wasn’t enough for Ted, two days later he announced that the feed-in tariff for solar panels (photovoltaics) was being cut from 60 cents per kilowatt hour (60c/kWh) guaranteed for 15 years, to 25c/kWh, guaranteed for 5 years. Estimates are that this will blow-out the payback period for putting solar panels on your roof (the time it takes before the amount you save on electricity covers the amount you spent on the panels) from around 7 years to around 14 years. Again, thousands of jobs and large sums of investment money will be destroyed.

Not only are Baillieu’s 19th Century energy policies costing jobs, increasing our reliance on coal and damaging our economy, they will also result in higher electricity prices. When the wind is blowing, or the sun shining on a hot day, wind and solar power can provide electricity cheaper than coal and gas power plants – driving down the average cost of electricity over a period of time (for more info on this click here).

So the question to ask is why? Why is Ted Baillieu willingly driving up the cost of electricity, cutting jobs and investment? Why is he destroying an industry that has around 90% support amongst the Australian public? Why is he abandoning climate action when he himself voted for a 20% by 2020 emissions reduction in the Victorian Parliament in 2010? The answer to these questions is in who is benefiting from these policies.

As is often the case with energy policy in Australia, the beneficiaries of Baillieu’s policies are the powerful and well-connected fossil fuel industry, in particular the gas and coal-fired electricity generators. As mentioned above, once a certain amount of renewable energy is built into our electricity grid the average wholesale price of electricity begins to fall – eating into the profits of the coal and gas companies. If renewable energy is held back, then these companies can continue to bring in exorbitant profits and consumers get stuck with ever increasing electricity prices and greenhouse gas pollution.

Don’t let Baillieu get away with it. As a start, you can send him an email by clicking here.