Federal energy and emissions reductions minister Angus Taylor is facing fresh pressure to remove the regulatory blockages that are preventing the development of Australia’s first offshore wind projects.
The Morrison government released the details of a proposed legislative framework that would enable the development of offshore wind projects in January last year – almost 18 months ago – saying at the time that it intended to have the legislative framework in place by mid-2021.
Compared to onshore projects, offshore wind farms have the potential to deploy larger wind turbines that are able to operate continuously for longer periods of time – taking advantage of stronger sea winds – but federal legislation effectively prohibits their development, and require legislative amendments.
Federal Labor’s shadow minister for climate change and energy, Chris Bowen, says Labor would support the passage of the necessary legislative amendments, but the Morrison government has so far failed to bring forward any such legislation to parliament for approval.
Bowen has written to Taylor, calling on him to address the federal government’s failure to act, which is causing several prospective projects to face development delays due to the uncertainty.
“I am concerned that not only will the framework be delayed – and with it, the economic and energy benefits that offshore wind offers – but also that the framework will not be fit for purpose,” Bowen wrote.
“I therefore urge you to re-commit to implementing a regulatory framework for offshore renewable energy.”
Bowen said that delaying the legislative amendments was delaying the creation of a significant number of jobs in a range of new skill professions, including many that would be created in Australia for the first time.
“There’s billions of dollars in investment waiting to be unleashed here, but the government is asleep at the wheel,” Bowen said. “The framework is already supposed to be up and running but we don’t even have a timeline for legislation.”
“We have some of the best offshore wind resources in the world. There are good, secure trades, engineering and manufacturing jobs to be had right across offshore wind supply chains, construction and operations.”
“I want those jobs to be here, for regional Australians – not just off the coasts of Europe and the US,” Bowen added.
Ironically, the regulatory framework proposed by the Morrison government would see the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) – the primary regulator for offshore oil and gas projects – given additional responsibility for regulating offshore clean energy projects.
While concerns have been raised over whether NOPSEMA is the most appropriate body to regulate clean energy projects, progress towards implementing any form of new regulatory framework enabling an offshore wind development appears to have stalled.
Environment group Friends of the Earth, which has supported the development of offshore wind projects, welcomed the intervention from the shadow minister, saying that the federal government needed to act to remove regulatory barriers to the development of wind projects in Commonwealth waters.
“Energy Minister Angus Taylor is failing to meet the government’s own promises to deliver offshore wind legislation and now at least twelve major offshore wind projects are facing unnecessary delays,” Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy spokesperson Pat Simons said.
“With Energy Minister Angus Taylor continuing to fail on offshore wind, is it time for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to step in and deliver this important legislation?”
Australia does not currently have any operating offshore wind farms, however, the 2,200MW Star of the South project is currently progressing through the development process, proposing to build Australia’s first offshore wind project off Victoria’s south-east coast.
There are around a dozen additional prospective offshore wind projects currently considering locations in Australian waters. The most advanced project is the 2,000MW Star of the South project off the Gippsland coasts in Victoria.
See RenewEconomy’s new map: Offshore Wind Farm Map of Australia
Taylor’s office has been contacted for comment.
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