The Victorian Government has launched a market sounding process to test industry interest and capacity for new solar, wind and other renewable energy projects.

The process will also explore the potential for electricity-reliant industries and businesses to buy renewable energy along with the Government through this process.

Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, said, “Renewable energy is supporting thousands of jobs and local businesses across Victoria – and it will help drive our economic recovery from coronavirus.

“It’s not only good for our economy, it will deliver more reliable, affordable energy to households across Victoria.

“We know Victorians are doing it tough and affordable reliable power is more important than ever – this will help to deliver that as well as creating jobs and stimulating the economy.”

In 2017, the Victorian Government sought 650MW of renewable energy through the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) Auction.

The VRET auction exceeded this ambitious target, delivering 928MW of renewable energy – boosting supply, putting downward pressure on power prices, and supporting 1,500 jobs and opportunities for local businesses across the state, particularly in regional Victoria.

This next market sounding process will test the capacity of industry to deliver at least a further 600MW of renewable energy – enough to power every hospital and school in Victoria, Melbourne’s train network and a range of other Government infrastructure and services.

It represents the next step in Victoria’s plans to continue to drive significant investment in Renewable Energy Zones, with more support to come to expedite and streamline grid connections.

Victoria is on track to meet its legislated 2020 renewable energy target of 25 per cent and procuring new generation will make a significant contribution to meeting the 2025 target of 40 per cent renewable energy, and the legislated target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said that plans for a clean recovery should be a significant boost to the morale of all Victorians.

“The timing of today’s news couldn’t be better – Victorians want to know what’s on the horizon following a terrible six months,” Mr Thornton said.

“Local job creation, a more secure energy supply and a means to address climate change are all ahead as Victoria works towards 50 per cent renewables over the next decade.

“It will be critical to ensure these projects can connect to the grid. We’re pleased to hear that the Victorian Government is supporting the streamlining of the grid connection process and also the development of the renewable energy zone model to ensure these projects can contribute positively to the grid while providing investor confidence.”

The Clean Energy Council estimates that 900 construction jobs along with 120 operation and maintenance jobs could be created through the new projects.

“This is an important step for Victoria’s Clean Recovery and for the rest of the country,” Mr Thornton said. 

“Renewable energy is cheap and abundant, and keeping costs lower for industry will lead to savings right across the supply chain for the people they serve.”

The Australian Wind Alliance (AWA) said in a statement that it had been calling for a second VRET to stimulate local manufacturing, create direct jobs through construction and operations, drive down VIctorian power prices and prepare Victoria’s grid for the imminent exit of polluting brown coal plants from the system.

A new VRET auction series will work as both a COVID-19 stimulus measure and a smart way to sustain and boost an industry critical to energy transition, according to the AWA.

The AWA said the first VRET drove a series of innovative and world class community benefit programs, including from Tilt Renewables for the community near their Dundonnell Wind Farm, near Mortlake in Western Victoria. 

These benefit sharing programs, which included diverse outcomes such as a local microgrid and support for a crisis housing for women and children, were recently recognised with the Clean Energy Council’s Community Engagement Award. 

The AWA said it looks forward to seeing further details on how VRET 2 will do the important work of creating local jobs and apprenticeships, provide upskilling and training for local workers, support renewable manufacturing such as Keppel Prince at Portland and the wind turbine assembly plant at the old Ford factory.

The AWA also said the VRET 2 will be an opportunity to raise the high bar set by the first VRET in effective community engagement and sharing financial benefits of renewable energy development with local communities. 

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