‘Are we planning away Victoria’s renewable energy future?’, ask University of Melbourne Law School

A study by the University of Melbourne Law School raises new questions about the Baillieu government’s anti-wind farm planning laws one year since their introduction.

Followers of the Yes 2 Renewables blog will be well aware of the adverse impacts the VC82 planning amendment has had on the Victorian wind energy sector, jobs, investment, landowners and regional economies. This study, authored by the esteemed University of Melbourne Law School, represents the entry of  new voices in debate surrounding the Victorian governments wind energy planning policy.

The University of Melbourne posted the following statement about the study:

Are We Planning away Victoria’s renewable energy future? 

Australia’s clean energy goals could be thwarted by recent amendments to the Victorian Planning Framework for wind farm developments, a study by the University of Melbourne Law School has found.

The study, “Planning away Victoria’s renewable energy future” published in the Journal of Environmental and Planning Law, found last year’s amendments were ill-equipped to resolve competing local, state and national interests, which could hamper future wind farm developments by creating a planning slowdown.

The study comes after recent media reports reveal there have been no applications for wind farm development projects since the latest amendments were introduced one year ago today.

The new changes prohibit wind farms in many areas in the state, including in those areas that have the best wind resources, and require all turbines that are to be built within two kilometers of a home to get consent from its owner.

“This gives landowners veto power, which is an extraordinary change that is very unusual in the context of planning law,” said Lisa Caripis, Research Assistant at the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environment Law (CREEL) at the Melbourne Law School.

“Planning law is meant to balance competing interests; however we found that the current framework is biased towards local interests – such as land values – over more global issues such as clean energy goals, while at the same time extending wind farm ‘no-go’ zones.”

According to the study, the changes cause further problems by giving local governments the power over planning approval decisions for all wind farm developments instead of having to refer larger projects to the Minister for Planning. The research highlighted the findings of a 2010 Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry that local governments lack the capacity, expertise and resources to be exclusively in control of making decisions about wind farm developments.

“As wind is one of the most technologically mature and commercially viable of renewable technologies, the new planning law could create barriers to wind farm development and potentially entrench existing fossil fuel energy production,” she said.

“State planning policy prior to the 2011 amendments had an overall strategic vision of facilitating the development of wind farms, but the current Coalition government changed that going into the 2010 election to give greater weight to community interests.”

The study also outlined other ways the framework could have been amended to bring it in line with best practice examples. This includes having specific planning controls to support wind farm development.

“The planning framework in Germany provides a good case in comparison,” said Ms Kallies. “Like Australia, Germany has a national renewable energy target and a federal system of government, but local planning decisions in Germany must take account of federal renewable energy policies. This means that renewable energy priorities are well integrated throughout the German planning system and is one reason why Germany has been so successful at moving to a low carbon energy sector.”

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