Securing ongoing employment for workers displaced by the energy transition is one of the challenges facing coal producing regions. Victoria’s Andrews Government is hoping to partly address this by locating its new Solar Victoria agency in the midst of its aging coal generation fleet including the Hazelwood, Loy Yang A & B, and Yallourn plants.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Energy and Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio and local Labor representative Harriet Shing announced today that Solar Victoria would be located in Morwell, in the Latrobe Valley.
“Our unprecedented investment in cheaper, more reliable energy will boost jobs in the Valley and across Victoria,” said Lily D’Ambrosio in a statement.
The 50 Solar Victoria public servants will be housed in the $25 million GovHub building in Morwell – construction on which is set to commence later this year. The public servants will join a further 150 from Parks Victoria, the EPA and Earth Resources Regulation departments and agencies in GovHub. The facility is planned to be completed by 2020.
Victorian Premier Andrews told local newspaper the Latrobe Valley Express that Solar Victoria may expand in size in the future.
“There will be some leadership positions potentially where people will relocate from Melbourne but these are all brand new jobs. They’ll be advertised, there will be opportunities for locals to fill them,” said Andrews.
“We said we would stick with the Latrobe Valley. We’ve backed new industries, new jobs and greater diversity within the local economy and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Andrews added.
The plan is for Solar Victoria to administer the ambitious Solar Homes program. Specific tasks will involve providing information about eligibility and available rebates to households, assisting them to find approved products and installers, and advising the PV industry on accreditation and auditing.
The accreditation and training of installers under Solar Homes will likely be vital to its success if it is to avoid the failures of the Rudd Federal Government’s much maligned Pink Batts home insulation scheme.
Solar Homes targets adding 2.6 GW of rooftop PV to Victorian households through addressing upfront capital challenges for people looking to install a residential solar system. Upfront grants of up to $2,225 will be available for a 4kW system – with interest free loans to be provided from mid-2019. It will only be available for homeowners with an annual income below $180,000 and with a home value below $3 million.
“Making Morwell the home of Solar Victoria will also bring up to 50 additional jobs to the Latrobe Valley as part of our ongoing transition and development work across the region,” said the Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing.
Environment Victoria and the Smart Energy Council were quick to praise the scheme this week. Environment Victoria CEO Mark Wakeham said that the plan will make the Victoria the leading residential rooftop state.
“After years of tedious energy debates in Australia, this is the kind of leadership and vision we’ve been waiting for and shows that states can lead the way in responding to our climate and energy crises,” said Wakeham in a statement.
Solar Homes and the Solar Victoria plans may not be realized if the Andrews Government loses the upcoming state election. Victorians will head to polls on November 24.