Victoria’s new Energy Minister, Nicholas Kotsiras, has broken his silence on the energy challenges facing the state.
Weekly Times reporter Cimara Pearce spoke with Minister Kotsiras about the core energy issues facing Victoria–the moratorium on coal-seam gas (CSG) and onerous wind farm planning guidelines–as well as the criticism he lacks the necessary experience and background to be an effective energy minister.
With the exception of the high-profile appointment of former energy minister Michael O’Brien as Victorian Treasurer, the cabinet reshuffle that accompanied the switch from Premier Baillieu to Napthine largely slipped under the radar. Probably the best example of the silence surrounding changes to the ministry was the announcement of Nicholas Kotsiras as O’Brien’s successor in the energy portfolio.
In contrast to Premier Napthine’s glowing endorsement of wind farms (“I think they are majestic, and I actually love them”), Minister Kotsiras said he was not opposed to wind farms. Kotsiras expressed support for the 2km right of veto enacted by the Baillieu government and confirmed the laws would not be retrospectively applied to existing wind farms. Here’s an excerpt pertaining to wind energy:
Mr Kotsiras said he was not opposed to wind turbines but believed communities should decide where they go.
Mr Kotsiras supported the 2km setback introduced by the Coalition in 2011 that prohibits developers building turbines within 2km of a home without the written consent of the owner.
He said although he sympathised with residents living near wind farms built before that legislation passed, existing turbines operating within 2km of homes would not be shut off under a Liberal Government.
“We changed the rules to ensure the community was supportive of wind farms,” he said.
“What can you say to them (people living under 2km from existing turbines)? That happened before we were in government.
“You can’t go back and retrospectively alter something when people have invested millions of dollars in major projects on the understanding they have received approvals from all of the relevant authorities.”
Yes 2 Renewables disagree with Minister Kotsiras’ comments about the community and support for the 2km right of veto. Communities can and must have a say about the siting of wind farms. Community engagement can occur through the planning process which accounts for the views of various stakeholders and balances those views against the aims and objectives of the Planning and Environment Act 1987. The 2km right of veto and ‘no-go zones’ for wind farms were imposed by government fiat without community consultation or economic cost-benefit analysis. The current planning guidelines do not strike the right balance between individuals and broader society. (Here are 10 reasons why Napthine should bin Victoria’s wind laws).
Yes 2 Renewables recommends the repeal of the 2km right of veto and abolition of the wind energy ‘no-go zones’. The distance between households and wind farms is best determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account acoustic modelling, topography, turbine types and other relevant factors. We encourage all Victorian politicians to support evidence-based policy when it comes to wind farms.