Development of Australia’s first offshore wind farm, which would power up to 1.2 million homes, 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.
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.
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 per cent of Victoria’s electricity needs and feeding the power into the National Electricity Market via an underground cable to the Latrobe Valley.
The Maritime Union of Australia said the project — which the company 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,” Mr 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.
"Rather than support renewable energy projects, under the Morrison Government we can't even get approval for a few wind measurement buoys off the Gippsland coast.
“Energy Minister Angus Taylor must get off his hands and immediately allow the Star of the South wind project to move forward to the exploration stage.”
Mr Tracey said 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,” he 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.”
Watch senate estimates here