Labor takes victory lap on clean energy after doubling the approval of projectsApril 10, 2023
Clean energy projects are being approved at twice the rate of previous years after federal action to speed up decisions in the hope of adding more wind farms and solar projects to the electricity grid.
The federal government is claiming a boost to investment in renewable energy after it increased spending in last year’s budget to clear backlogs and issue faster environmental approvals.
Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
Applications for new projects have also jumped from 64 to 95 since the federal election last May, according to a federal list of renewable energy projects ranging from small solar farms to the mammoth Star of the South wind project to be built on the Gippsland coast.
Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek will issue the update with a claim that the new federal government has overcome delays to renewable projects under the Coalition during the previous nine years.
“We’re ripping off the Coalition’s brown tape and unleashing Australia’s natural abundance of cheaper, cleaner energy,” she said.
“That means getting projects up and running.
“For the first time in a decade, Australia has clear policies to take action on climate change and reduce emissions.”
Plibersek has been criticised by the Greens on the government’s support for energy projects, including 116 coal seam gas wells in Queensland, which she approved in February as part of an existing Santos project in the Surat Basin.
The number of active projects in the renewable sector now exceeds the number of coal and gas projects up for approval by federal authorities, given the government estimates the list of fossil fuel projects in the federal “pipeline” is less than half the 116 projects the Greens have claimed.
The projects span from the 90-megawatt Port Hedland solar project in Western Australia to 540 kilometres of transmission line in the EnergyConnect eastern section project in NSW, projects to connect renewables to the energy grid in Queensland and NSW, a large-scale 445-megawatt Aldoga solar farm in Queensland, and the Goyder South wind farms, which will produce a combined 412 megawatts.
“We’re reforming our laws to deliver even clearer, faster decisions while better protecting our environment too,” said Plibersek.
A major decision in parliament is due later this year when Plibersek seeks support from the Greens and other crossbenchers to pass changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the law that gives the minister the ultimate say in whether projects gain approval, subject to the courts.
Environmental groups gave a positive response to the draft EPBC overhaul last December but Greens environment spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young is pushing for a “climate trigger” to ensure fossil fuel projects can be blocked when their carbon emissions are considered as part of the approvals process.
The government said approvals more than doubled from five to 11 in the 10 months since the election, in part because of a decision to spend $117.1 million to add resources to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water to speed up decisions.
Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said the government was delivering “policy certainty” to achieve the target of generating 82 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2030.
The applications yet to gain final approval have increased to 95 since the election and include large offshore wind farms like Star of the South, said to be big enough to supply 20 per cent of Victoria’s electricity needs.
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