In what’s being seen as a possible portent for national elections in February, the incumbent Labor government has swept to victory in the Australian state of Victoria, after campaigning on its support for renewable energy, battery storage, and climate action.
“The stunning victory is expected to give the Labor Andrews government about 55 seats—and possibly as many as 58—in the state’s 88-seat Lower House, as electorates considered to be safely Liberal swung to Labor, and marginal seats morphed into Labor strongholds,” RenewEconomy reports. That’s after Labor ran a campaign “peppered with policies to make clean energy technologies like rooftop solar and storage cheaper and more accessible for consumers, and to replace the state’s remaining coal-fired power plant with big solar, wind, and batteries.”
Labor also promised to set a target of net zero emissions by 2050 for the country’s second-most populous state.
“The victory means that the state’s recently launched solar homes scheme—which offers a half-price rebate on small-scale PV installations—will be expanded to offer interest-free loans, and to include half-price battery storage and access to rooftop solar for renters,” RenewEconomy states. “The Andrews government has pushed hard on large-scale renewables in the state, too, with its first renewable energy auction—Australia’s largest—delivering 928 MW of capacity via six new wind and solar farms.”
By contrast, the state Liberal Coalition led by Matthew Guy had promised to extend the life of existing coal plants and put up funds for another 500-megawatt facility.
In reaction to the election result, Labor leader Daniel Andrews said voters had “rejected the low road of fear and division”, adding that “Victorians, I think, are a lot more generous and a lot smarter than our opponents thought they were. They want big, broad, bold politics. Not this narrow, nasty stuff that was on offer, and it was rejected comprehensively yesterday.”
While this was a state election, RenewEconomy reporter Sophie Vorrath notes that national Liberal Coalition luminaries like treasurer and former energy minister Josh Frydenberg hail from Melbourne, in the heart of Victoria.
“If the message of the Wentworth by-election wasn’t clear enough, the Liberal Party have been given another reminder,” said Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Alix Foster Vander Elst. “Australians are sick of the climate denial and scare-mongering. They want action on climate change and an energy system dominated by renewables, and they will vote for parties that can deliver them.”
RenewEconomy Editor Giles Parkinson headlines the “stunning election result” as a “huge tonic” and a moment of palpable relief—for Australia’s renewable energy and energy storage industries, and for anyone concerned about the post-carbon transition.
“Victorians were presented with a simple choice when it came to energy: wind, solar, and storage and a long-term plan for their grid integration, versus an ad hoc and reactionary appeal to last century’s fossil fuel technologies. It was renewables vs. coal,” Parkinson writes.
“And make no mistake, the victory of the Andrews government is significant. Victoria faces the most challenging transition given its reliance on aging, highly polluting brown coal generators, and the network constraints that threaten to limit the development of large-scale wind and solar in some of its most productive areas.”
Which means that, “to effect this transition, it needs a government that has a plan, rather than one that throws up roadblocks and indifference at every juncture.”