Will NSW’s Liberal-National state government follow its Victorian colleagues and block the development of wind energy in the state?
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu announced new planning laws on August 29 that ban wind farms from large areas of the state. The laws put so many hurdles in the way of new wind developments that most wind companies are now talking of abandoning further developments in the state.
“These arbitrary, draconian restrictions will cost Victoria billions of dollars and thousands of jobs,” said Friends of the Earth campaign coordinator Cam Walker.
“These strict planning restrictions do not apply to any other major developments, and make it easier to build a coal mine in rural Victoria than a wind farm.”
Two days after the wind planning laws announcement, the Victorian government slashed the feed-in tariff that subsidises rooftop solar panels.
Environment Victoria’s Mark Wakeham condemned the decision. “The government claims the scheme is costing too much and that reducing the feed-in tariff will not affect payback times for households or businesses, but they haven’t released any analysis to substantiate these claims,” he said on September 1.
“Before the election, the Coalition made a clear commitment to conduct a Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission review to look at strengthening feed-in tariffs. Nowhere did their energy policy mention cutting the tariff.”
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell told Radio 2GB two weeks earlier that his government had not “approved any [wind farm] applications — and if I had my way, we wouldn’t”.
The NSW Planning and Assessment Commission is reviewing the guidelines for wind turbine siting and is expected to make its recommendations public soon.
NSW has relatively few wind farm developments compared with Victoria, where the previous Labor state government gave planning approval to many projects that are yet to be built.
The approved projects in Victoria could still amount to a significant expansion of that state’s wind sector. But these projects can still be disallowed. Any alterations to the licences must be done under the new laws.
Wind developer Union Fenosa had two previously-approved planning permits in western Victoria blocked by the planning minister. This was on the recommendation of the Moyne Shire council, which had been dealing with amendments to the planning permits.
Many commentators have pointed out that these moves threaten the federal government’s renewable energy target of 20% by 2020.
Greens Senator Christine Milne has called for the renewable energy industry to politicise to counter this threat.
“You can no longer be an advocate for renewable energy and be apolitical at the same time,” she told brisbanetimes.com.au on September 7.
“If you are an advocate for renewables, then you have to take on the Coalition.
“The renewable sector needs to get out there in the community. They need to step up and protect the Renewable Energy Target and get out there and say it’s essential and that we have to have it.”
Victorian Electrical Trades Union secretary Dean Mighell also condemned the new state laws. He said they destroyed the prospect of green jobs for the state, especially for the Latrobe Valley.
“It kills real prospects of establishing those jobs we think should be established in the Valley, on the back of what we did with Siemens [to build wind turbines in the region] 12 years ago,” Mighell told the Latrobe Valley Express.
Renewable energy campaigns by Friends of the Earth Melbourne and national network 100% Renewables are calling on concerned people to contact them to support or join their campaigns.
[Visit 100% Renewables campaign at http://100percent.org.au/ or the Friends of the Earth renewable campaign at http://yes2renewables.org. Ben Courtice is renewable energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Melbourne.]