Senate wind report slammed as ‘reckless’, ‘biased’ attack on renewables

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Senate wind inquiry final report slammed as biased and reckless as it recommends national noise standards, strict limits to REC access.

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After an impromptu and questionably legal airing last week, the  final report of the Senate inquiry into wind farms was tabled in Parliament on Monday, with a lengthy list of recommendations that the clean energy industry says would result in the death of the wind farm sector in Australia.

The recommendations, some already adopted by the Abbott government – include the creation of an independent scientific committee on wind farm noise, national standards on the level of sound allowed to be emitted by wind farms, ongoing investigation into the health effects of “infrasound,” and new limits and restrictions to wind projects’ access to renewable energy certificates (RECs).

The report asks that the Abbott government – no fan of wind energy, as we know – to cap RECs for wind energy projects at five years, down from 15 years. And it wants those wind farms that fail to abide by a federally implemented noise limit to be barred from receiving certificates at all.

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The report also states variously that a) the science on the health impacts of wind turbines is “evolving”; and b) that the RET is “promoting an unbalanced market for renewables in Australia, with an over-reliance on wind.”

The inquiry – which was headed up by outspoken anti-wind Senators John Madigan, Bob Day, Chris Back and David Leyonhjelm – was set up to address a purported “persistent and widespread complaint and criticism” of the wind industry in Australia, namely about “the lack of transparency and consultation in planning processes, and the lack of rigorous, independent research into possible health impacts of turbines.”

It also managed to squeeze in an investigation of the effect of wind energy on household power prices – “particularly households which receive no benefit from rooftop solar panels”; the merits of consumer subsidies for operators; and the effect wind turbines might have on nearby fauna and “aerial operations”.

As reported, the committee was, over the inquiry’s course, told of extraordinary damage to brain and physical function of humans, dogs and ewes, while turbines were compared to Pink Bats and the industry to Big Tobacco.

The resulting 350-page publication is, in its own words, “arguably the most complete Australian parliamentary inquiry into wind farms.”

Whether or not this is true – there have, after all, been 10 of them over the past five years – is up for debate, but it certainly rounds out one of the most comprehensive attacks on wind energy by a major political party the industry has ever seen.

“This isn’t just an attack on wind – Australia’s entire renewable energy industry would pay the price,” said committee member and Labor Senator Anne Urquhart said.

“The majority report is belligerently deaf to the expert advice that wind energy is not only safe, but it is affordable and should play a critical role in Australia’s transition to a low-carbon economy.”

“I fear this report will only serve to feed the prime minister’s blind obsession with destroying an industry that promises billions of dollars of investment and thousands of jobs in regional communities,” Urquhart said.

“If the government follows through on the recommendations in the majority report it will just cement Australia’s place as a global climate pariah with regional communities and the environment paying the price.”

To others, the report’s findings are entirely predictable – but pose no less of a reckless risk to investment in an industry that has lately been all but paralysed by uncertainty.

“You didn’t need a crystal ball to know the inquiry was going to demonise clean and safe wind energy,” said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy spokesperson.

“Stacked with senators opposed to wind farms and selective leaks to the press show that the inquiry was a political exercise, not a impartial review.”

“Investors will back away from Australia if the committee’s radical recommendations are implemented. Billions of dollars worth of projects in regional areas and thousands of jobs would be lost,” said Ewbank.

Andrew Bray, national coordinator of the National Wind Alliance, said that Australia’s renewable energy policy was too important to be set by the “blinkered prejudices” of a small group of anti-wind crossbenchers.

“This report rails against anyone who challenges the bias of these anti-wind senators but treats even the most discredited criticisms of wind as gospel,” Bray said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Having failed to secure a larger cut to the Renewable Energy Target, the crossbenchers behind this inquiry now want to strangle wind development in Australia with red tape.”

“A standing ‘scientific’ committee to prolong this scare campaign about wind farms is the last thing wind communities need. The federal government should run a mile from this idea.”

Whether the Abbott government will “run a mile” from the report’s many recommendations, or seize upon them, remains to be seen – although the Committee seems confident at least some of the final recommendations will be picked up, perhaps buoyed by the Abbott government’s willing adoption of various interim recommendations, including the establishment of a national wind farm commissioner.

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22 Comments
  1. Douglas Hynd 4 years ago

    Some of the issues the Committee wants studied have already been looked at. Obviously didn’t talk to the people who could have told them. but perhaps the answers wouldn’t have suited them. Someone may be able to correct me but the attempt to use RECs as a means to enforce their regulatory regime wouldn’t impact on ACT wind farm as they don’t use that mechanism.

  2. Neil_Copeland 4 years ago

    I hope that many people have come to the realization that the coal miners and fossil fuel power generators are the ones running this country as long as their Liberal/National puppets are in place.

  3. Alan S 4 years ago

    So our country’s elected representatives reject medical science and trust the good Doctor Laurie instead. This is a low point for democracy – perhaps for civilisation.

    • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

      no longer a Doctor after complaints to the registration board, even though the SCoWT Report uses that title for Laurie continually. Where as Prof Chapman is refered to as Simon Chapman, they do like to wear their bias on their sleeve those Senators

  4. howardpatr 4 years ago

    Angus Taylor, Member for Hume, will be bleating in the ear of the nation’s climate change denier Prime Minister’s ear telling him how his STOP THOSE THINGS organization could have told him all the evils of wind turbines, (and renewable energy technologies in general), without a Senate inquiry.

    Hope Back, Madigan, Leyonhjelm and Day get due recognition from STOP THOSE THINGS.

    • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

      STT … That’s a good webpage against loopy Senators.

  5. Chris Fraser 4 years ago

    This is the latest on the anti-Wind Committee from SMH ;-
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/investigation-into-wind-farm-leak-evaporates-into-thin-air-along-with-senate-committee-20150804-gir39d.html
    Clearly, the anti-wind Senators have moved onto other important things … like looking for UFOs.

  6. john 4 years ago

    Oh dear setting up an ” Industrial Noise Monitor “, will very quickly show that every part of industry emits high levels of infrasound.
    Wind through trees around buildings past power lines these are all higher than turbine created pressure.
    Inside every vehicle on the road let alone outside the levels are very, very high.
    Not to mention of course every industrial activity.
    Inside buildings the levels caused by movement of air inside ducts has to be designed to be either above or below the threshold of hearing.
    The usual method is to use large mass at low speed to mitigate this very problem.
    However the infrasound is still present just not thought about by the average Joe public.
    Logic would then mean all of the above have to be curtailed.
    This is pure fantasy I am afraid and not going to happen.

    • mick 4 years ago

      I would question how many people have experienced absolute silence

      • john 4 years ago

        Possibly no living person.
        This outcome really brings the parliament into disrepute within the community and is a very poor outcome.
        Are we honestly going to make decisions by non science no wonder STEM levels are low.
        No wonder those in education are dismayed when this is the product of their endeavours.

        • mick 4 years ago

          much as I hate the idea and despise the bastards running the show perhaps there is an argument for paying more to get better people as well as decent rules re:lobbying jobs during and after,unfortunately self interested people seem to migrate to that sort of career choice,maybe compulsory real world experience rather than only political science degrees (apologies to any decent humans who happen to be political scientists)

          • john 4 years ago

            The political scientist is having some problem finding an institution that will house his research facility so perhaps the present higher level facilities in Australia have some standards after all.

          • MaxG 4 years ago

            I am sure the right education fund will open doors to some mob willing to take it…

    • Maya Chitrani Pérez 4 years ago

      Great point. And we also need to have a Senate enquiry into air conditioners. My neighbour’s unit is so loud, I can’t sleep, I get headaches and blurred vision, and my husband is constantly iritable

      • john 4 years ago

        There are already noise guidelines in most jurisdictions that deal with this problem, if this is your case then contact a solicitor.

  7. Stewart 4 years ago

    I take a walk/cycle bridge across the M1 in Brisbane every work day. I cycle along a service road alot of days. I quake in my boots every time a B double thunders past. Mmmm, and they talk about noise! How about an inquiry into road noise and the health effects of those living within the same buffer that the anti wind farm impose around those machines. I know which would be worse!

    • john 4 years ago

      You have put in words the exact problem your perception of a B Double is a large ” so dangerous ” vehicle.
      As a pedestrian a natural fear of such a large vehicle is naturally prudent, as is caution to any other moving vehicle faster than your ability to take evasive action and flee.
      The infrasound you are being exposed to is quiet high.
      Can you document any ill effects?
      In the case to do with these industrial turbines perceived ill effects are exhibited and would appear real however when exposed to fake non noise levels the same apparent effects are exhibited.
      Dealing with this is extremely difficult without utilising the properly trained investigators who are bound by their profession to do studies and report findings that are repeatable and documented.

  8. Les Johnston 4 years ago

    The Senate report is reluctantly forced to conclude that there is no scientific support for the claimed health effects of wind farms in Australia. Hence reading the report is similar to reading science fiction. Human perception of infra-sound needs to be separated from human perception of audible sound ie 20Hz to 20kHz. Measurement of infra-sound has challenges too. The Senators appear to reflect the general level of scientific literacy in the community but unfortunately lack the wisdom to reflect upon that position.

  9. Todd 4 years ago

    Globally, fossil fuel subsidies reached $5.3 trillion (£3.4 trillion) in 2015, or 6.5 per cent of global economic output, the IMF said.

    • Todd 4 years ago

      “Although there’s been a great deal of scrutiny about the cost of renewable energy, the price that … taxpayers are still being forced to pay to the oil, coal and gas industries – decades after they became well-established – is eye-watering.”

      • Todd 4 years ago

        Half of these subsidies should be cut off and applied to renewables

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