Victoria’s energy minister has called on the federal Coalition government to put aside any ideological opposition to wind energy and get on with creating a legislative framework to support the development of offshore wind farms in Australia.
In comments during the online Situmulus Summit on Wednesday, co-hosted by the Smart Energy Council and RenewEconomy, Lily D’Ambrosio said offshore wind had the potential to supply an “almost constant” source of renewable energy to Australia’s grids, and was a particularly promising resource for Victoria.
D’Ambrosio said that the state currently had “a number of proponents” that were very keen on investing in offshore wind energy projects, but faced uncertainty in dealing with the federal government, which has regulatory control over any projects more than 3 kilometres from shore.
The minister pointed to the massive Star of the South project, which proposes to build a 4,000MW offshore wind farm – Australia’s first – off the Victoria’s Gippsland coast, and last month began the process of seeking environmental approvals from the federal government.
“That’s had very big difficulties in getting the necessary exploration licences because it’s in Commonwealth waters, and big projects like this will probably typically be in Commonwealth waters,” D’Ambrosio told the Summit.
Australia lags well behind the rest of the world on offshore wind energy development, despite having an abundant resource. The federal government in January this year launched a consultation process on potential new regulatory powers for offshore wind farms in Australia.
Part of the proposed process would see the federal energy minister, currently Angus Taylor, granted decision making powers to approve, or place conditions on, a proposed offshore wind farm. It would effectively provide the federal energy minister – a vocal oppoenent of onshore wind energy – with veto powers over a proposed offshore wind farm in Commonwealth waters.
“Victoria has probably the best offshore wind resource in the country. We need them to just put aside any ideological views about wind and just get on with actually providing a proper legislative framework for committing exploration and then actually building these types of facilities.
“That will benefit many states, and certainly Victoria. …Offshore wind presents particular advantages in terms of availability of wind as a resource. It’s almost a constant source of resource, potentially, and we’d be derelict not to allow for investors to come in and actually plan for those projects and get them built because we need them.”
The Star of the South project, an investment of around $10 billion, promises to create around 2,000 jobs over the time of its development. It is being progressed in partnership with Denmark’s Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, which is also looking to invest in offshore projects across Europe, Asia and North America.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth seconded the minister’s call for the federal government to get a move on, by bringing national offshore wind laws to parliament.
“The Star of the South is a game changing project that was first publicly proposed back in 2017, and now it’s time for Angus Taylor to get a move on and bring national offshore wind laws to parliament as a matter of urgency,” said Pat Simons, Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy spokesperson.
“It’s baffling that Energy Minister Angus Taylor is trying to prop up the ailing gas industry under the cover of Covid, when the priority should be how to build the cleantech industries of the future like offshore wind.”
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