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Offshore wind farm continues to be delayed due to lack of federal policy, Senate Estimates hears

A proposal for Australia's first offshore wind farm in Victoria's east has been significantly delayed due to a lack of regulatory framework, but the Maritime Union of Australia is accusing the Government of having a "blind hatred" for renewable energy.

A proposal for Australia's first offshore wind farm in Victoria's east has been significantly delayed due to a lack of regulatory framework, but the Maritime Union of Australia is accusing the Government of having a "blind hatred" for renewable energy.

The Department of Environment and Energy told Senate Estimates Committee on Monday that they were working with Offshore Energy on its proposal, but the process had been delayed while the department developed a "bespoke" licensing arrangement.

"We've been working through the various regulatory issues and requirements necessary for doing a bespoke arrangement," Jo Evans, deputy secretary of Australia's Climate Change and Energy Innovation division, said.

The wind farm, which would be built 10–25 kilometres offshore in waters near Port Albert, would spread over 570 square kilometres in Commonwealth waters and could provide 18 per cent of Victoria's energy.

Offshore Energy first began working with the Federal Government on a feasibility study for the $8-billion, 250-turbine proposal in early 2017.

But the company has not received approval to commence the exploration phase of the project, which would not... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

A proposal for Australia's first offshore wind farm in Victoria's east has been significantly delayed due to a lack of regulatory framework, but the Maritime Union of Australia is accusing the Government of having a "blind hatred" for renewable energy.

The Department of Environment and Energy told Senate Estimates Committee on Monday that they were working with Offshore Energy on its proposal, but the process had been delayed while the department developed a "bespoke" licensing arrangement.

"We've been working through the various regulatory issues and requirements necessary for doing a bespoke arrangement," Jo Evans, deputy secretary of Australia's Climate Change and Energy Innovation division, said.

The wind farm, which would be built 10–25 kilometres offshore in waters near Port Albert, would spread over 570 square kilometres in Commonwealth waters and could provide 18 per cent of Victoria's energy.

Offshore Energy first began working with the Federal Government on a feasibility study for the $8-billion, 250-turbine proposal in early 2017.

But the company has not received approval to commence the exploration phase of the project, which would not involve any construction.

The department admitted in Estimates that a briefing and recommendation was awaiting a response from Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

No regulatory framework for offshore renewables

Ms Evans told the hearing the process had been significantly delayed because there was no regulatory framework for offshore renewable energy.

She said the department was drawing from existing frameworks from offshore oil and gas explorations to develop a bespoke arrangement.

"The project has certainly been around for a long time, it's just because the circumstances are so complicated without there being an existing regulatory framework to handle what they are proposing to do," she said.

Ms Evans said part of the complication was due to the proposed wind farm being located in Commonwealth waters, rather than state-controlled waters, because it would be built more than 3km offshore.

Ms Evans emphasised that the proposal in consideration was for an exploration of the resource, and would not authorise any actual development.

"That will be a separate decision that will come later," she said.

When asked by Labor Senator Anthony Chisholm whether the department had given the Energy Minister a recommendation on the proposal, she indicated that the department had been briefed and that briefing contained a recommendation.

Ms Evans also said that the department had received a number of public submissions about the proposal.

"These have not been made public yet because the decision is still pending consideration by the Minister," she said.

Government has 'blind hatred' of renewables

Will Tracey from the Maritime Union of Australia said the Government had a "blind hatred" towards renewable energy and was deliberately stalling the project.

He said that while it was true there was no regulatory framework for wind farms in the country, he believed it was not an excuse for delaying an exploration proposal.

"We are talking about simple measurement procedures which have been involved in the offshore for 60 years in this country," Mr Tracey said.

"It has taken three or fours years to get to a stage where a recommendation has been made to the department, and the Minister sits on it.

"It has been smothered and stalled because of the ideological hatred this government has of renewable energy."

Mr Tracey said the union was calling on the Government to approve the exploration phase of the project because it could create thousands of jobs in the region.

"It will provide permanent, stable, good-paying jobs for our members who work on vessels that will service this project, as well as onshore jobs and construction-related activity through the construction phase," he said.

Local support for offshore wind farm

A local group that opposes a proposal for the construction of large wind turbines inland near Yarram in South Gippsland, are strongly supporting the nearby offshore wind farm proposal.

"It's a major investment that would help Victoria seriously meet the Government's targets of 50 per cent renewables," Alan McDonald, convener of Save Yarram, said.

"Compare that to the little 'Mickey Mouse' project [in Yarram] that's going to destroy a lot of valuable farmland, habitat and utility.

"It's not just the impact on locals, it will have a serious impact on tourism."

Mr McDonald said the local community would much rather wind turbines go offshore than be on people's land.

"The local community is well-informed and are not anti-development," he said.

"They want to see their town prosper, and serious investments like the offshore wind farm can only help."

A project spokesperson for Offshore Energy's Star of the South project said they had been working closely with the Federal Government on all the relevant approvals: "We look forward to progressing our studies once we have these approvals in place."

The spokesperson said that the proposed exploration would include "wind monitoring, seabed surveys using low-level seismic techniques and general marine studies".

"There will be significant community and stakeholder consultation to share information about our proposed activities and to incorporate local feedback into our approach."


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news...

FEB 22 2019
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