Thursday, 3 June 2010

Wind energy companies attack Baillieu proposal - No consultation' on wind farm policy

Tuesday 25/5/2010 Page: 4

CLEAN energy companies have launched an advertising campaign attacking state Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu over his proposed wind farm policy, warning it could send thousands of jobs and more than $4 billion of investment interstate.

An advertisement in today's Age by six wind companies - Pacific Hydro, Acciona Energy, AGL Energy, Suzlon, Keppel Prince and REpower - says: "Mr Baillieu, please don't send clean energy jobs and investment interstate!" It conies ahead of a meeting and expected joint press conference today between representatives from the companies and Premier John Brumby.

Under Mr Baillieu's policy announced earlier this month, wind farms would be banned in national parks, tourist areas and growth corridors. No new turbines could be built within two kilometres of homes without the consent of the owners, and local councils would be given full control of the wind farm approval process. The policy was supported by the Victorian Landscape Guardians, and criticised by the clean energy industry and the Municipal Association of Victoria.

Pacific Hydro executive manager Andrew Richards said the opposition policy would create a 13-square-kilometre exclusion zone around all homes. He said the exclusion zone would not apply to other infrastructure, including coal-fired power stations. "Why is the wind industry singled out on this? We feel as though we need to make a strong public statement on this so people are under no illusion about what it means," he said.

Ken McAlpine, policy director with Vestas Australian Wind Technology, said the industry was forced to react after the opposition devised its policy without consulting wind farm companies. "We're very concerned about the opposition policy and its potential impact on Victoria's wind industry," he said. "Our industry has a track record of operating in a safe and environmentally responsible way, and this is the sort of thing that should be encouraged rather than blocked."

Mr Baillieu has rejected suggestions his policy would kill the wind farm industry. He declined to comment yesterday. Meanwhile, the opposition is considering suggesting amendments to proposed changes to Australia's 20% renewable energy target, which could stop households generating renewable energy over and above the 20% target. The government is seeking to divide the renewable energy target - which ensures 20% of Australia's energy comes from renewable sources by 2020 - between large and small-scale projects.

While the large-scale side of the target would be capped, the government has left energy generated from household solar panels uncapped, meaning Australia's renewable generation could exceed the 20% target in 2020. Opposition energy spokesman Ian MacFarlane and Nationals senator Ron Boswell have both previously expressed concerns about the divide, citing industry complaints that uncapped household renewable generation could cause higher electricity price rises than first thought.

It is understood the opposition will defer its final position on the changes to the renewable energy target until after a Senate inquiry reports on June 10, but possible amendments were discussed at shadow cabinet yesterday. Parliamentary debate on the changes is expected to begin tomorrow.