Waubra Wind Farm, Victoria

4 August 2014 — Isn’t it good what a little competition between sibling rival states will do? One week we have NSW saying it wants to be the California of Australia with renewable energy, and the next Victoria announces it’s loosening the noose on wind farms. A bit.

The Victorian government in 2011 changed its planning provisions so that new wind farms would have to gain consent of dwelling owners within two kilometres of the development, extremely limiting new development.

The planning provisions, however, also made it necessary for someone with an existing planning permit to gain consent of owners within two kilometres if they wished to amend their permit.

“This effective prohibition of an amendment to existing planning permits, such as to upgrade the approved turbine technology, was unintended,” a government release stated.

“Enabling proponents to upgrade the turbine technology provides the opportunity to reduce noise impacts, the total number of turbines and overall amenity impacts. Efficiency gains through use of modern technology will also likely impact on the future cost of power generation and electricity prices.”

Clean Energy Council acting chief executive Kane Thornton said the move would put Victoria “back in the race” to renewable energy investment.

It has a bit of catching up to do, though, with South Australia way out in front as the leader in wind, and looking to go further with the announcement of a $10 billion target for renewables.

What’s possible is over $15 billion of investment. But what’s holding this back? The loony right that has taken possession of the federal government, perhaps.

Mr Thornton said the ongoing review of the Renewable Energy Target had stifled investment and left a “dark cloud hanging over the industry”.

“We have already seen job losses announced by many businesses, with many multinational companies also contemplating their future in Australia in light of ongoing policy instability,” he said.

“If we lock in the legislated Renewable Energy Target, we will unlock approximately $15 billion in large-scale renewable energy investment and much more in household clean energy technologies such as solar power. Where that investment lands across the country will depend on how determined Australia’s state governments are to attract renewable energy projects.”

Mr Thornton said Victoria’s planning changes showed it was possible to establish a planning regime respectful of local communities while delivering more efficient and modern wind farms.

“The wind industry recognises the importance of working closely with local communities to ensure their strong support for wind energy and all renewable energy projects across the state. These sensible changes ensure that turbines will not move any closer to houses, which retains the community protections that the planning system is there to enforce,” he said.