The Sustainability Awards, now in their ninth year, were established to recognise and reward “Victorian businesses, institutions, communities and individuals that are forging a sustainable Victoria now and for the future”.
The Hepburn wind farm, which is Australia’s first community owned wind farm, is composed of 2 turbines at Leonards Hill, just south of Daylesford, and will start generating energy soon. It is a wonderful example of a community banding together to take tangible and meaningful action to reduce greenhouse emissions. It has inspired communities around the country to start working towards their own locally owned energy systems. At last count there were around 40 such projects, mostly at an early stage of development.
While the Premier managed to get through his speech at the awards without even mentioning climate change, the stand out message from last Thursdays awards ceremony is the fact that, under the Victorian Coalitions wind farm policy, the Hepburn Wind project would probably not be possible if it was just starting now.
The Premier bailed almost immediately after his speech, leaving it to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change to present the award to Hepburn Wind. But you have to wonder what went through his mind when he saw that Hepburn had won in their category given the Coalition’s policy on wind energy.
The Coalition is currently working to implement its wind farm policy – which promises to create ‘no go’ zones for wind farms across some of the most suitable regions for wind energy in the state, including the Macedon and McHarg Ranges, the Dandenongs, the Bass Coast, the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas and other sections of the state, including designated regional growth areas.
Friends of the Earth supports a rapid transition to full reliance on renewable energy. Our preferred option is community owned energy. And to have a community wind project requires a good concentration of people who understand the need for climate action: this means regional centres like Woodend, Macedon, Ballarat, Torquay, and so on. Many of these areas are in the broadly defined ‘no go’ zones.
So, we have a strange irony: on the one hand the government acknowledges the value of the community wind farm model and awards the efforts of more than 1,300 people in creating the Hepburn project. On the other hand it is moving to enact laws that would make any more community owned wind farms impossible in Victoria.
At this point the government appears to be hoping no one notices this fact. What happens when thousands of potential investors and supporters of the wind farm model discover they can’t support such a project in their local community?
The Coalition knows it must build electoral support in rural Victoria. It must also know that the anti wind farm campaign that was run in some parts of rural Victoria in the build up to last years state election disappeared without trace. It looks increasingly clear that they are backing the wrong horse in their anti wind agenda, which gives a right of veto to some residents in rural Victoria, but not others.
At what point does common sense kick in and over ride their current policy allegiance to a small and noisy group of climate deniers?