MUA: Energy Minister Holding First Australian Offshore Wind Project Back
Development of Australia’s first offshore wind farm, the 2GW Star of the South, has been stalled by Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s failure to sign off on an exploration license allowing a detailed assessment of the wind resource to commence, according to the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).
The Department of the Environment and Energy confirmed during Senate Estimates that an evaluation of the project has been undertaken, a plan for a customised exploration license developed, and a briefing and recommendations provided to the Energy Minister, but that the project can progress no further without the Minister granting the exploration license, MUA said.
The Star of the South project seeks to construct 250 wind turbines in Commonwealth waters off the coast of Victoria’s Gippsland region, generating up to 20 percent of Victoria’s electricity needs and feeding the power into the National Electricity Market via an underground cable to the Latrobe Valley.
The project was initially being developed by the Victoria-based Offshore Energy. The company then entered into a partnership with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) at the end of 2017 to jointly develop the wind farm.
MUA said the project, which the developer claims will create up to 12,000 manufacturing and construction jobs and slash Australia’s carbon emissions, appeared to be falling victim to the Morrison Government’s ideological hatred of renewable energy.
MUA Deputy National Secretary Will Tracey said the exploration license awaiting approval did not allow construction to commence and was simply about allowing the use of floating buoys and platforms off the Gippsland coast to gather wind and wave observations.
“We have a major wind project that would create thousands of jobs and provide clean, reliable energy for more than a million Australian households, but because of their ideological hatred of renewable energy the Morrison Government appears to be actively stalling its development,” Tracey said.
“The Star of the South project has been in the works since 2012, yet in this time no legislation has been put forward, no regulatory framework put in place, and no responsible agency nominated, despite offshore wind being an established industry internationally. Now we have revelations from Senate Estimates that Energy Minister Angus Taylor has been briefed on the project and presented with recommendations, yet the exploration license continues to sit on his desk gathering dust.”
MUA has called on Minister Taylor to ”get off his hands and immediately allow the Star of the South wind project to move forward to the exploration stage.”
Tracey added that offshore wind generation was a mature industry internationally which has successfully operated for two decades, but Australia was falling behind, putting future employment opportunities at risk.
“This project isn’t just about generating renewable energy and tackling climate change, it’s about creating secure jobs for the future, particularly for workers who are being displaced from the offshore oil and gas industries,” Tracey said.
“The Federal Government urgently needs to put in place a plan to support the development of the offshore wind industry, including a clear regulatory framework, along with the right port infrastructure and specialised construction vessels to roll out this project and others like it as quickly as possible.”