The following is a letter from last weeks Macedon Ranges Weekly.
Where did the ‘No Go’ zones come from?
Last year, the state government created a series of ‘No Go’ zones, which block wind energy developments across much of Victoria, including the Macedon – McHarg Ranges. The government seems to think these ranges extend almost as far north as Bendigo.
Member for Northern Victoria Donna Petrovich has said in state parliament that the No Go zones were “carefully” selected where communities “on the whole have told us that they are not appreciative of wind farms”.
Given the controversial nature of the No Go zones, and the widespread support for the Macedon and Castlemaine community wind proposals, it would be useful to understand how Ms Petrovich consulted the community to reach her conclusion that wind power is unpopular. I have tried unsuccessfully over a number of months to get a clear answer from her office on this issue.
If an MP consults their constituents in order to develop their position, that is to be commended. If it’s a robust consultation process, then why not release the results? Polling continually shows the majority of people do support renewable energy and wind power in particular, so there is an onus on Ms Petrovich to come clean on her research if she is to stand by her claim that communities right across the Macedon and McHarg Ranges and big chunks of Central Victoria are “not appreciative” of this form of green and sustainable energy.
Friends of the Earth
Ms Petrovich, an Upper House member for Northern Victoria, has made it fairly clear that she supports fossil fuel over renewables:
In Hansard, Ms Petrovich raises various issues about what she sees as the ‘problems’ with wind energy: issues of reliability of wind, health risks, visual impacts.
Ms Petrovich is concerned that the previous government did not consult with the community over wind farm policy (this does beg the question of who the Coalition consulted with in framing their policy). She said in parliament (May 2 2012) that “we are great sticklers for process and for ensuring that people have a voice.”
She says that the No Go zones were ‘carefully’ selected where communities ‘on the whole have told us that they are not appreciative of wind farms’. In the same speech she only mentioned anti-wind groups as being the groups she had worked with in forming her opinion – see below.
She endorses the Coalition wind policy: ‘The position the government has come to is one that I am proud of.’
The only thing we do know is that she has worked with anti-wind groups:
“I have worked with groups such as the RATs (Residents Against Turbines) of Tooborac and a group that works out of Baynton and Sidonia, and they have had great concerns about the proposals for wind farms”.
Hansard October 11, 2011
But who are these people? Unlike the case with green groups, there is no public information available about who these groups are, and who they represent. Ms Petrovich needs to come clean on who these groups are, rather than promoting anonymous organisations as the source of her information.
Even the RATS themselves have said “We have decided to remain anonymous“. Check here for reference, section 6.3. How can public policy be driven by a group that won’t even identify themselves?
On coal and CSG
“The Coalition looks towards the effectiveness and abundance of brown coal as a means to provide a reliable source of energy for Victorians”.
Hansard October 11, 2011
In May 2012, Ms Petrovich spoke in parliament AGAINST a proposal for a moratorium on coal seam gas (CSG) exploration until there has been a comprehensive investigation into the likely impacts of this industry on land, food production and water.
“I can say from the outset that we will not be supporting any moratorium on exploration for coal seam gas”.
“It makes sense to explore new sources of gas, including unconventional sources like coal seam gas, to keep gas prices affordable for Victorians”.
– Hansard, May 2, 2012.
what do you think?
If you are concerned that Ms Petrovich has helped kill off any short term option for community owned wind energy in Central Victoria, you may want to let her know your feelings on the matter with a quick email or phone call. Just say you’d like to leave a message for Ms Petrovich, and leave a short message, plus your contact details.
Phone : (03) 5782 2011
Fax : (03) 5782 2099
An open letter to Donna Petrovich from Rebecca Colless, Woodend
31 October 2011
Dear Ms Petrovich,
I sent a letter to you by post six weeks ago and again by email a fortnight ago. You have chosen not to respond, so now I am writing a public letter to you, because I urgently want your answers to my six questions below.
I support the community‐owned small‐scale wind park as proposed by the Woodend Integrated Sustainable Energy (WISE) group.
Climate change is a clear and present danger: an overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists agree. Why is the Victorian Liberal Party denying our community the opportunity to mitigate climate change and secure a clean energy future, when we live in an area so rich in wind energy?
When Ted Baillieu presented the Premier’s Sustainability Award to the Hepburn Community Wind Park in May 2011 he said ‘Being smart with our resources makes economic and social sense.’ Why doesn’t his statement apply to the proposed Woodend Community Wind Park – banned by your government’s legislation in August 2011?
The WISE group is proposing just three turbines for Woodend. Hidden from view in the forest.
Handily close to the existing electricity grid, with the capacity to provide clean power to the combined population of Woodend, Macedon, Mount Macedon and Newham. Are you aware of the following facts about wind turbines?
• In Australia up to 10,000 times as many birds and bats die from collisions with vehicles and buildings, than from collisions with wind turbines.
• The CFA rates modern wind turbines as inherently low‐risk for fire.
• At a distance of 350 metres ‐ much closer than any residence to the proposed Woodend Community Wind Park site – the sound generated by a wind turbine is equivalent to the background noise in a rural area at night.
With bizarre timing, just as you banned wind harvesting in the Macedon Ranges, your government honoured an agreement WISE had with the previous government and gave WISE $50,000 to build a test mast. Then this month, your government asked for the money back. Is this because you don’t want residents to find out exactly how much wind energy is whistling over our heads?
While travelling to Melbourne recently, my daughter looked around and asked me why it’s OK to build: vast freeways; giant antennae; powerlines with enormous pylons; in‐your‐face billboards; and large smoking chimneys; all in view of thousands of people ‐ but it’s not OK to build wind turbines. Can you explain this to her?
You are the Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Environment. So what are your reasons for blocking the Woodend Community Wind Park, Donna?
Another letter. Lyn Hovey, Riddells Creek
There is much opposition in the Macedon Ranges to the views of Donna Petrovich, the northern Victoria Upper House MP who opposes wind energy and is very supportive of coal and coal seam gas. I am not aware of any public consultation before the Liberal Government decided last August to create a huge ‘no go’ zone to block wind energy in much of Central Victoria including the Macedon Ranges. She has refused to say who she consulted beyond naming one anti wind group. Her support for the coal industry is grubby politics in that she invests in a company which is planning to frack for coal seam gas in Gippsland in coming months. On which planet is she the Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Environment?
The resulting loss of employment and investment opportunities from stalled wind projects in Victoria is substantial. The Clean Energy Council estimates that the laws will eventually drive $3.6 billion of investment away from Victoria. Lost or stalled employment has been calculated at around 480 direct jobs in construction, more than 39 on-going jobs in management of wind projects, and 1,034 associated indirect jobs, making a total of 1553 jobs.
At present there are four community owned wind farm projects currently in the planning phase in Victoria. These are all in declared ‘no go’ zones. They are at Castlemaine, Westgate, Surf Coast and Macedon.
The Macedon wind project of three 2.1 MW turbines which was to be situated about 7 kilometres south of Woodend in a pine forest would have supplied equivalent power to that consumed by 3,300 households (the combined population of Woodend, Macedon, Mount Macedon and Newham). This project could deliver the benefits of a community-owned wind park including the retention of income from energy sales within the shire, access to clean energy as electricity generated would be fed to local homes via the grid, and the avoidance of transmission losses (up to 30%) from energy currently supplied from the Latrobe Valley.
The successful Hepburn project is worth $13.5m, more than $7m of the project was spent on Australian content, and more than half of the Australian content was spent in regional Victoria.
Residents in the Macedon Ranges have taken up the option of generating their own energy via solar rooftop in extraordinary numbers, thus reducing the demand on coal generated electricity. Citizens are doing their bit to reduce Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions but meanwhile the Baillieu Government is covertly planning a massive coal export industry and backtracking on closing the state’s ageing coal power stations.