Last week the Shadow Minister for Energy and Renewables, the member for Warrandyte, joined me in Portland where we met with the local management of the Alcoa aluminium smelter to hear an update on the situation that vital employer has in Portland and in Victorian manufacturing. We were both so pleased to hear a positive story of a hardworking and dedicated workforce who are doing everything in their power to find better and more efficient ways of doing their work. The entire team are dedicated to that smelter. They are constantly innovating the way they work because they know the smelter is vital not only to Portland and the south-west but to the whole of the state of Victoria.
The smelter plays a vital role in stabilising the energy grid. Its switching yard ensures that energy generated from renewables can be fed back into the grid. When there is high demand the smelter can power down to keep the lights on. It is also doing its bit for sustainability. While renewables are not enough to power the smelter alone, last year 19 per cent of the smelter’s energy came from renewable sources, up from 1 per cent in 2015.
The cost of energy will be the sticking point for the smelter’s future, but because of the policies of this government, energy prices in Victoria are through the roof. It is hurting manufacturing businesses which are vital to this state and must be supported. The Premier cannot afford for Portland Aluminium to close, but Portland Aluminium cannot afford the high cost of power that the Premier’s reckless energy policies have created. The team at the smelter are doing their bit; it is time the Premier joined them in their fight for these jobs.