Mon. Nov 29th, 2021

A landmark federal government legislation that would allow offshore wind farms to be built in Australian waters for the first time – and pave the way for massive renewable export projects like Sun Cables in the Northern Territory – has successfully passed through the Senate.

The Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill was presented to Parliament by Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor in September this year, after years of campaigning by green groups, state governments and developers eager to exploit world-class renewable resources identified off Australia’s coastlines.

And while the bill is not perfect – the criticism includes inadequate safety regulations, lack of clear process and vague wording around Native Title – its passage clears the way for the at least 13 offshore wind projects, according to our live map, which has been waiting for a legal framework to continue.

Australia currently has around 20 GW of offshore wind project proposals in the development pipeline – all at an early stage of development – and the Australian energy market operator has identified several offshore wind zones that can accommodate up to 40 GW of offshore wind.

See RenewEconomys live offshore wind map of Australia

Most projects are in their very early stages, with the most advanced being the 2.2GW Star of the South project, although Alinta recently revealed that it was looking at an offshore wind project of more than 1GW in scale.

The Star of the South was this week one of three projects planned off the coast of Victoria to win a funding boost from the state Labor government – a total of $ 40 million to support feasibility studies and pre-construction developments, including environmental assessments.

Victoria, whose offshore wind resource has been tipped as one of Australia’s best, has been a key voice in calls for the Morrison government to clear the way for the sector, including a direct prayer from State Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio last year.

Speaking at a summit hosted by Smart Energy Council and RenewEconomy in May 2020, D’Ambrosio suggested that the Federal Coalition Government override any ideological opposition to wind energy and continue to support the development of offshore energy. projects.

“[The Star of the South has] had very great difficulty in obtaining the necessary exploration licenses because it is in Commonwealth waters, and large projects like this are likely to typically be in Commonwealth waters, ”D’Ambrosio told the summit.

Green groups have also fought hard for the legislation, with Beyond Zero Emissions among the first to welcome the news of its passage through the Senate on Thursday.

“Offshore wind farms are struggling to get started,” said Tom Quinn, BZE’s head of policy and research.

Offshore wind turbine projects can support a resurgence of production in regional Australia with the supply of high quality, long-lasting renewable energy.

“The success of Australia’s unique geography means there are unique offshore wind resources located next to many of our regional industrial hubs, including Hunter and Illawarra,” Quinn said.

Friends of the Earth campaign leader Pat Simons, who has worked with the Maritime Union of Australia to help bring the laws up, tweeted on Thursday that the news was a “game changer”.

“#StarOfTheSouth could supply up to 20% of Victoria and it’s just one offshore wind farm,” Simons said.

In its own statement welcoming the news, Star of the South said a clear regulatory framework would send a positive signal to the global offshore wind market to attract continued and new investment.

“This bill is an important milestone in kick-starting a new industry, realizing Australia’s offshore wind potential and unlocking jobs and economic benefits for regional Australia,” said Star of the South CEO Casper Frost Thorhauge.

However, as mentioned above, it is not yet completely smooth for the young Australian industry, with a number of issues marked for recasting or addressing in the legislation.

“The legislation requires regulation and a clear process and timetable for the minister to declare an offshore area for renewable energy infrastructure,” Quinn said.

Friends of the Earth said the next immediate step for the Morrison government was to begin public consultation on declaring “offshore wind zones.”

“The Morrison Government must declare offshore wind zones as soon as possible so that Gippsland communities can benefit from projects proposed for the region,” Simons said in a formal statement from the FoE.

And from Star of the South’s Thorhague, a more diplomatic message: “We look forward to ongoing cooperation with the government on the development of more detailed rules next year.”

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