News / Politics

Climate shapes up as a key issue in election battle

Shadow Minister visits Brunswick to spruik party’s solar battery policy

The MHR for Wills, Peter Khalil, in Brunswick alongside Shadow Minister for Climate and Energy, Chris Bowen, on Friday.

Mark Phillips
Sunday, November 28, 2021

WITH growing likelihood that the next federal election could be just four months away, one of Labor’s big guns dropped into Brunswick last week to spruik the party’s environmental credentials.

Shadow Minister for Climate and energy Chris Bowen joined the MHR for Wills, Peter Khalil, to announce that a Labor government would fund the installation of two community batteries for solar energy storage.

The presence of Mr Bowen at the announcement is a sign that climate change and the environment is expected to be one of the defining issues of the battle between Labor and the Greens for the seat of Wills.

Mr Khalil holds the seat with a handy margin of 8.2% but in the south of the electorate it is a tight contest, particularly after the Greens’ Tim Read won the state seat of Brunswick in 2018.

The Greens have selected Pascoe Vale resident Sarah Jefford as their candidate.

Ms Jefford is a lawyer and author who specialises in surrogacy law. Launching her campaign last month, she said it was time for Wills to elect a woman to Parliament for the first time in the seat’s 72 year history.

Labor has come out firing early with the community battery announcement on Friday at the Jesuit Social Services Ecological Justice Hub in Brunswick.

Mr Khalil said that if elected, Labor would allocate one community battery each to Brunswick and Coburg under its $200 million ‘Power to the People’ package to support solar and other forms of renewable energy for households.

It is part of a suite of policies to achieve Labor’s objective of zero net emissions by 2050 which also include incentives for increased electric vehicle use and 10,000 renewable energy apprenticeships.

About 400 of these batteries would be installed around Australia. They cost between $500,000 to $1 million each.

A community battery is typically the size of a 4WD vehicle, and provides around 500kWH of storage that can support up to 250 local households.

Solar households feed into the battery during the day and draw from the stored energy at night.

Any excess electricity stored in a community battery above local community needs can be sold into the grid when it is needed most – in the early evenings – putting further downward pressure on electricity bills.

Mr Khalil said Coburg (15%), Brunswick (11%) and Brunswick West (14%) have some of highest solar coverage in the Wills electorate.

Potential locations for the batteries include the Jesuit Social Services hub in Saxon Street, Halpin Street in Brunswick and McDonald Reserve in Coburg.

“One of the things I’m keen to do is make it available for socio-economically disadvantaged households and people who find it difficult to get solar panels because they’re in an apartment complex,” Mr Khalil said.

While Labor is aiming for zero net emissions by 2050, the Greens want to achieve that earlier by 2035.

But Mr Khalil said he was not interested in the Greens’ aspirational target as the minor party would never be in a position in government to implement it.

“The people of Wills are going to have to look at this and decide a Labor government, if we’re elected, is actually going to deliver on policies that address climate change and improve the environment,” he said.

“The Greens and other parties and independents can make all sorts of promises and ask for all sorts of things but they can’t actually achieve any of them, they cannot form government to achieve those things.”