Hansard debates

Search Hansard
Search help


Legislative Assembly

20 March 2013
Second Reading


  For  the  reasons  given  in this statement,  I  consider  that  the  bill  is
  compatible with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.
   The Hon. Nicholas Kotsiras, MP
  Minister for Energy and Resources


Second reading

Mr KOTSIRAS (Minister for Energy and Resources) -- I move: That this bill be now read a second time. The Energy Legislation Amendment (Feed-in Tariffs and Other Matters) Bill 2013 will amend various acts within the energy and resources portfolio. Part 2 of the bill amends the Electricity Industry Act 2000 to implement aspects of the government's response to the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission's report Power from the People -- Inquiry into Distributed Generation. The government response will improve the efficiency of feed-in tariff arrangements and assist in minimising barriers to distributed generation. The Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission's recommendations included establishing a new efficient and fair feed-in tariff that would be available to all small-scale, low-emissions or renewable energy distributed generation facilities. The inquiry found that continuing to provide above market premium feed-in tariffs for these facilities could lead to unnecessary increases in electricity prices for all Victorian consumers. The bill implements the government response to this recommendation by providing for a new efficient and fair feed-in tariff rate. This efficient and fair rate will be set by the Essential Services Commission, based on the wholesale price of electricity and the distribution and transmission costs avoided through the supply of electricity from distributed generators. The bill also allows for a wider range of small generation facilities to be eligible for the feed-in tariff scheme by removing existing restrictions on facility eligibility. This will allow new technologies to be assessed for inclusion in the scheme on a case-by-case basis. An electricity customer with a small solar energy facility who receives a premium feed-in tariff and who chooses to increase the generating capacity of that facility after 31 December 2012 will no longer be eligible for that premium rate. While these customers may still be eligible for the new efficient and fair rate, if they were to continue to receive a premium rate, the costs for these schemes, ultimately borne by all Victorian electricity customers, could significantly increase. The bill strengthens oversight of the feed-in tariff schemes by ensuring that feed-in tariff scheme terms and conditions may be referred to the Essential Services Commission at any time for assessment of whether they are fair and reasonable. This referral power is the main tool the government has to ensure compliance with the minimum requirement for retailers to provide fair and reasonable feed-in tariff offers. The Electricity Industry Act 2000 currently requires referrals to be made within a relatively short time and does not allow later referrals. The amendment ensures that customers are not disadvantaged merely because the terms and conditions offered by a retailer were not immediately referred for assessment. I turn now to the other provisions of the bill. Part 6 of the bill amends the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target Act 2007. Energy retailers participating in the scheme will now include retailers who meet an energy-use threshold, as an alternative to the existing 5000-customer
Page 1012
threshold. This amendment addresses an existing anticompetitive market distortion where retailers with relatively few, but very large, customers are currently outside the scheme. In order to align with the range of activities permitted under the New South Wales scheme, the bill will also expand the scope of the Energy Saver Incentive scheme by enabling project-based and public lighting activities to be eligible for the scheme. The bill makes a number of other changes to improve energy safety in Victoria. Part 3 of the bill amends the Electricity Safety Act 1998 to clarify that electrical installation work that will make an electrical installation or a building supplied with electricity unsafe, is prohibited by the act. Part 4 of the bill amends the Energy Safe Victoria Act 2005 to permit Energy Safe Victoria to provide information to the Australian Energy Regulator. This will facilitate appropriate assessment of network safety compliance costs by the economic regulator when determining network prices. Finally, part 5 of the bill inserts a new offence provision into the Gas Safety Act 1997 to prohibit a person from carrying out building work that will make a gas installation, or a building supplied with gas, unsafe. This new offence mirrors an existing offence in the Electricity Safety Act 1998. The bill also confirms that the functions of Energy Safe Victoria include monitoring and enforcing compliance with the Gas Safety Act 1997 and regulations. I commend the bill to the house. Debate adjourned on motion of Ms NEVILLE (Bellarine). Debate adjourned until Wednesday, 3 April.