solar panels Photo: Glenn Hunt
The Napthine government has been accused of systematically destroying renewable energy as green groups prepare for a ground offensive targeting key electorates ahead of the November 29 election.
A report by Environment Victoria claims the government has made 25 attacks on clean energy, including "extreme" restrictions on wind farms, removing the 20 per cent emissions reduction target from the Climate Change Act, cutting and restricting the solar feed-in tariff, scrapping a commitment to replace street lights with energy efficient light bulbs, cancelling the solar hot water rebate and opposing the carbon tax.
Since the November 2010 election, the environment has remained on the periphery of state politics. In the latest Age/Nielsen poll, it ranked sixth on a list of nine key issues for voters, behind health, education, jobs, financial management and public transport.
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine. Photo: Getty Images/Graham Denholm
But with the Abbott government considering breaking an election pledge by scaling down Australia's renewable energy target, the state government is believed to be examining various options for an environment policy to counter voter concerns.
Environment Victoria is preparing to target key marginal electorates – including some of the crucial "sandbelt" seats on the eastern side of Port Philip Bay – using hundreds of trained volunteers.
Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham accused the government of running an agenda to destroy clean energy because it was "joined at the hip" with coal companies, risking billions of dollars of investment.
"Most of Victoria's policy agenda for a cleaner and more efficient energy mix has been deliberately dismantled over the past four years," Mr Wakeham said. "Few of these attacks were announced to the public before the 2010 election, and it is difficult to see how they have benefited the people of Victoria."
The antagonistic claims follow a submission to the federal review of Australia's renewable energy target by the Napthine Government. It argues the renewable energy target – ensuring that at least 20 per cent of Australia's electricity is derived from clean sources – should be scaled back and suggests gas-fired power and power generated using waste wood from native forest logging should be counted.
In a joint statement, Environment Minister Ryan Smith and Energy Minister Russell Northe accused Environment Victoria of having a "complete disregard" for cost of living issues.
"Environment Victoria is clinging on to the outdated view that state governments must lead on emission reductions measures, when it was federal Labor that said that states should instead take the lead on climate adaptation and not mitigation," the ministers said.
The ministers said renewable energy was already claiming an increasing share of the market, making up 12 per cent of all of Victoria's energy use.
But Mr Wakeham said renewable energy had increased its share in spite of state government policy, largely because of the federal renewable energy target, something which the state government's colleagues in Canberra want to destroy.