New Aussie Law Aims to Remove Hurdles in Offshore Wind Expansion

The Scott Morrison-led conservative government in Australia has introduced a legislation that could help clear the way for offshore wind farms to go ahead in a country considered to have massive offshore renewable energy potential.

The long awaited legislation will set up a framework for building, running, maintaining and decommissioning offshore electricity projects including wind generation and transmission cables, with environmental and financial safeguards.

Australia is one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters on a per capita basis. The country has seen growing international pressure to step up its efforts to cut emissions and tackle global warming. The country has warmed on average by 1.4 degrees C since national records began in 1910, according to its science and weather agencies. That’s led to an increase in the number of extreme heat events, as well as increased fire danger days.

“An offshore electricity industry in Australia will further strengthen our economy, create jobs and opportunities for Australians and enhance the delivery of affordable and reliable power,” Energy Minister Angus Taylor said in a statement.

Projects that could progress if the legislation passes, as expected, include the Star of the South wind project off the coast of Victoria, the Marinus Link transmission line from Tasmania to Victoria, and Sun Cable, which plans to deliver solar power from the Northern Territory to Singapore.

“This legislation is a key step to realising Australia’s offshore wind potential and unlocking the associated economic benefits, including providing opportunities for the nation’s strong resources and maritime sectors,” Star of the South Chief Executive Casper Frost Thorhauge said in a statement.

The Australian government has been at the receiving end of scathing critique from environmentalists for its continued financial support for extending fossil fuels’ use over sincere attempts towards developing renewables. According to analysis by research non-profit Jubilee Australia found Export Finance Australia (EFA), a federal government credit agency provided up to $1.69 billion in financing to the fossil fuel sector and related services – including for coal, oil and gas – compared to just $20 million for renewable energy projects between 2009 and 2020.

Further, research released by The Australia Institute shows that fossil fuel subsidies cost Australians a staggering $10.3 billion in FY 2020-21. In other words, every minute of every day $19,686 was effectively given to coal, oil and gas companies and major users of fossil fuels.

The new legislation might help remedy this issue by enabling smoother carrying out of renewable projects. Currently, there are more than 10 proposed offshore wind projects with a combined capacity of more than 25 gigawatts (GW), a recent government research report said, adding that with a coastline of almost 60,000 km (37,283 miles) with “very high wind resources”, it made sense to consider developing an offshore wind industry.

Onshore wind farms with combined capacity of 7.4 GW supplied nearly 10% of Australia’s power in 2020, with a further 21 onshore wind farms with a total capacity of 4 GW due to start construction.

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) recently said that the results of REN21’s Renewables 2021 Global Status Report highlight that Australia is not doing enough to decarbonise its economy and that urgent action is required within the next decade to reach the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

At the end of 2020, Australia ranked 14th in total renewable power capacity at 50GW, with the CEC Council estimating there is over 47 GW currently in the development pipeline.

After the federal budget was released this year, critics pointed out that the 2030 emissions reduction commitments made by Australia are way behind what is needed, and massively behind what the EU and US have put forward, being only 14% below 2018 emissions, whereas the US and EU are in the range of 46 to 47% below 2018 levels.

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Soumya Duggal

Soumya is a master's degree holder in English, with a passion for writing. It's an interest she has directed towards environmental writing recently, with a special emphasis on the progress being made in renewable energy.

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