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Energy security crucial in journey to net-zero

Robin Batterham, Richard Bolt, Elyse Gatt and Chau Le
– ESG –

Recent power outages have highlighted the need for a plan that outlines not only Victoria’s journey to net zero emissions, but also ensures energy supply during the transition, a special Victorian Chamber event has heard.


Hundreds of guests attended Victorian Chamber Presents From Commitment to Action: The Journey to Net Zero, which heard engaging discussions from an expert panel about the policy and technology approaches required to reach emissions reductions targets.

A crucial talking point was the need for sustained supply in the wake of Victoria’s recent storm-induced power outages that crippled hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.

Victorian Chamber Chief Executive Paul Guerra said: “The events of February 13th, just a few weeks ago, really brought the issue of energy into a sharp focus when more than half a million Victorian homes and businesses experienced complete power failure the day before Valentine’s Day.

“The fragility of our existing system was exposed. We can’t get to net zero on a hope and a prayer.”

Mr Guerra is concerned that if the government “cannot guarantee that the lights remain on” in this state, businesses will find other places to set up.

“The Victorian Government has set out ambitious energy targets to achieve 95 per cent net zero renewables by 2035. It’s something that most of us a supportive of, but the concern lies in how are we actually going to get there?

“In our view, every resource should be considered. Yes gas, yes hydrogen, yes solar, yes wind, yes coal for hydrogen, and yes whatever else happens to be a possibility to help us get there.

“We cannot let energy security be the casualty of the transition to net zero.”

The event highlighted how conversation and collaboration can lead to tangible solutions for leaders and policymakers.

“You are here because you care, or you are concerned, or you’re a part of the solution, or you’re all of the above,” Mr Guerra said.

“Do not sit quiet. Do not presume that others will beat the drum. Call out the bullshit and call out the ideology. This isn’t a game. This is our future. Reliable energy at affordable prices must be aligned.

“Please get behind what we’re doing in the Chamber. You can bet we will stay on this until we get to net zero by 2035.”

Guests also heard from former Australian Chief Scientist and NetZero Australia Chair Robin Batterham, while the expert panel included Nous Group Principal Richard Bolt, Origin E-mobility General Manager Chau Le, and Banksia Strategic Partners Head of Energy and Social Impact Elyse Gatt.

Mr Bolt is a founding steering committee member of Net Zero Australia, the research institute that outlined how to make net zero happen. He also previously advised the NSW government on the state’s electricity infrastructure roadmap.

“We have to be prepared to walk down the track of using things that might sound like a compromise but actually enable us to get there,” he said.

Ms Gatt acknowledged that the cost of renewables was “more expensive”, which can be off-putting during financial pressures, but would be worth it in the future.

“During a cost-of-living crisis, it’s not a great time to be talking about this – but it does need to be socialised more.”

Ms Le spoke of the role electric and low-emission vehicles would play in the transition, saying sales were still lagging behind other parts of the world due to a “policy vacuum”.

“But now with the national EV strategy, with the new vehicle efficiency standard, with the fringe benefits tax extension for EVs, we are really seeing the results,” she said.

Victorian Chamber advocacy

In taking a proactive approach to facilitating change, the Victorian Chamber undertook a campaign last year, Achieving a Net-Zero Economy: Roadmap for Victorian Businesses, to support businesses’ transition to a net-zero economy.

The comprehensive piece of work outlines 25 short-medium and long-term recommendations on how we can reduce energy costs, ensure energy supply and support businesses reach net-zero.

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