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The Victorian Government has released its 2020/21 Budget, which includes $562 million for river health, $65 million for urban waterways and $1.6 billion for clean energy.

The $562 million to improve the health of Victorian rivers will preserve native habitats and help secure the future of the state’s waterways – and the Victorian businesses and jobs that rely on them.

The centrepiece of this investment is a $224 million program to improve the management and monitoring of rivers, creeks and waterways.

This includes everything from new fencing, pest control and revegetation to better coordination and management of catchments and Ramsar sites – which are some of the most unique and important wetlands sites in the world.

An additional $65 million will go towards improving Victoria’s urban waterways and protection for the Yarra and Barwon Rivers and Melbourne’s western waterways. 

This will improve access and the environmental health of waterways to support recreational activities including walking, boating and fishing, and creating community green spaces.  

Victorian Minister for Water, Lisa Neville, said, “This funding will ensure our rivers, creeks and wetlands are protected, preserved and enjoyed by families across Victoria.

“Water is precious. And investing in our waterways means investing in the communities, livelihoods and local economies that rely on them.”

This investment will also see development of new plans and improved governance to encourage alternative water sources such as recycled water and stormwater.

To help Victorians save more water, the Victorian Government will invest $5 million to continue the Schools Water Efficiency Program, giving schools greater understanding about their water use – and helping students appreciate this precious natural resource.

Nearly $4 million will go towards fixing leaks and improving water efficiency at community housing properties, saving water and saving residents money.

The Budget will also support 23 Aboriginal Water Officers to assist Traditional Owners in improving the management of waterways across the state – building on the state’s landmark Water for Victoria reforms that recognise Aboriginal water values in law.

To support the efficient delivery of water, create jobs and protect rural communities, $59 million will be invested to support sustainable irrigation and infrastructure projects to increase regional water security and efficiency and develop the water grid, supporting compliance while meeting the challenges of drought and climate change.

Nearly $24 million will help communities prepare for floods through better planning, forecasting and emergency response, with an extra $3 million to improve the safety of high-risk dams.

Sustainable water strategies – which support regional communities to manage the future of their water – will be renewed and Victoria’s contribution to the Murray Darling Basin Plan will continue along with salinity management.

Together with $50.9 million already provided through the Building Works stimulus package, this brings the State Government’s total investment in water security, protection and infrastructure to more than $613 million.

An unprecedented clean energy investment

The Victorian Budget 2020/21 will invest an unprecedented $1.6 billion to create renewable energy hubs across the state, improve crucial grid infrastructure, decarbonise the energy system, drive down emissions and support more Solar Homes – the largest investment in clean energy of any state, ever.

The Budget provides $540 million to establish six Renewable Energy Zones – from sunny Mildura to the windy east coast – unlocking new renewable energy investment that will support economic growth and jobs.

Renewable Energy Zones will be the energy hubs of the future – supporting businesses, jobs and towns across regional Victoria.

The Budget also provides $12.6 million to bring online more than 600MW of new, clean energy through its second renewable energy auction, to create enough energy to power 100 per cent of the Victorian Government with renewable energy – from public transport to schools and government buildings.

This investment will create enough energy to power more than 350,000 houses, support local manufacturing and jobs, and ensure the government meets its increased legislated target of 50 per cent of electricity generation from renewable sources – which has been estimated to create around 24,000 jobs by 2030 and generate up to $5.8 billion in additional economic activity.

Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, said, “We’re driving our economic recovery from Coronavirus with renewable, reliable energy that will save families money and support tens of thousands of Victorian jobs.

“It’s a three-in-one investment – establishing Renewable Energy Zones will create local jobs, reduce power prices and advance our work to tackle climate change.”

The Budget includes $108 million to prepare Victoria for innovative and transformational renewable energy and hydrogen projects – such as ground-breaking projects like Australia’s first offshore wind generator.

Hydrogen has the potential to transform manufacturing and households that currently use gas – ultimately driving down emissions and better using Victoria’s existing gas infrastructure and skills.

Local communities will also benefit with $27 million for local energy projects that increase the use of clean energy – like microgrids, neighbourhood batteries, bushfire resilience programs and community-owned renewable energy projects.

A further $21 million will help community groups to install renewable energy systems, storage and energy efficiency improvements at community buildings, and support the ResourceSmart Schools program, which teaches kids about ways to save energy, minimise waste and reduce Victoria’s impact on climate change.

Funding will go towards rolling out a fast-charging network for electric vehicles at sites covering major highways and key tourist destinations – creating jobs during construction and making electric vehicles a sustainable alternative.

In the biggest residential energy package of any state in Australia’s history, $797 million will go towards improving the energy efficiency of almost 300,000 Victorian homes, direct relief for those struggling to pay their energy bills and expanding the Solar Homes program, as outlined here

The Budget also includes $91 million of energy management support for Victorian businesses and community groups, including:

  • A $31 million co-investment fund for large energy users to transform the way industry uses energy and helping businesses save money, to be spent in the next twelve months
  • A $30 million top up for the Agriculture Energy Investment Plan to support Victorian farmers to improve their energy management
  • $9 million for Victorian Energy Upgrade (VEU) incentives targeted at small businesses, to accompany the $38 million going towards 15,000 solar rebates for businesses
  • $21 million for climate change community action, which will include funding to help community groups install renewable energy systems, storage and energy efficiency improvements in community buildings

The Budget features $10 million for supporting the clean economy workforce, including setting up a Clean Economy Skills and Jobs Taskforce, which would develop a Clean Energy Workforce Development Strategy and oversee the rollout of a $6 million for a Clean Economy Workforce Capacity Building Fund.

Industry welcomes announcements

The Energy Efficiency Council CEO, Luke Menzel, said, “Last week the Andrews Government took a leadership position on energy efficiency, with a record $797 million investment in energy efficiency upgrades, with a focus on social housing residents and concession card holders.

“Today they doubled down, extending the benefits of energy efficiency stimulus to every part of the Victorian economy, and ensuring no business is left behind.

“This is smart stimulus. We know that energy efficiency upgrades have the biggest jobs multiplier of any form of clean energy investments. 

“Victoria is harnessing that jobs multiplier to supercharge their post-COVID recovery, creating thousands of good, local jobs and cutting carbon along the way.”

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, said, “Renewable Energy Zones would allow for the efficient development of much-needed transmission infrastructure in a way that benefits generators, local communities and Victorian consumers.

“Earlier this month, the Australian Energy Market Operator announced it would produce a Renewable Energy Zone Development Plan for Victoria. 

“This is a welcome development to understand the optimal transmission build for the state.

“We welcome this as an important recognition of the current and future role that the clean energy sector plays in providing meaningful employment across Victoria.

“It is also an encouraging example of the need for governments, education and training institutions, and industry players to work together to improve employment outcomes and help rebuild the economy post-COVID-19.”

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