Pressure is building on the Morrison government to deliver on offshore wind, after Gippsland Nationals MP Darren Chester faced questions on QandA and regional climate groups raised the alarm on the climate crisis during the past fortnight.
It raises the question of the whether the Coalition government and Energy Minister Angus Taylor can deliver on offshore wind in 2020?
Appearing on QandA on Tuesday 29th August, Darren Chester MP faced questions from Victorian seafarer Melissa McMullen, who pointed to the opportunity to build the Star of the South offshore wind farm off the coast of Chester’s Gippsland electorate and the ongoing delays to a national offshore clean energy framework.
Melissa says “seafarers like myself have got the skills to build this project and we want to do it…but several years after the company approached the government we still don’t have legislation to allow it to get built.”
If it goes ahead the Star of the South offshore wind farm is predicted to create thousands of jobs during the construction phase and power as many as 1.2 million homes with renewable energy.
While it was good to see Chester clarify his support for the popular Star of the South offshore proposal, he failed to explain when exactly the government will bring the offshore clean energy legislation to Parliament.
Not long after, grassroots climate groups throughout Gippsland staged 40 Covid-safe actions throughout the region, calling on federal Coalition MPs Darren Chester and Russell Broadbent to #Act4ClimateGippsland and questioning their silence on the issue to date.
Some community members like Gippsland climate blogger Peter Gardner used the day to call for the Star of the South project to be fast-tracked.
Now, it’s clear pressure coming from the union movement and regional communities calling for action on climate change and offshore wind jobs is paying off.
On Tuesday 6th October Treasurer Josh Frydenberg unveiled the Morrison government’s budget. The budget failed to deliver a post-Covid economic recovery plan that tackles the climate crisis. It has been missed opportunity for action on climate change and criticised for offering “token support” for renewable energy while expanding public funding for fossil fuels like gas.
Buried in the budget is a commitment to ‘develop’ a national offshore clean energy framework over 2020-2021, a sign that the community campaign for offshore wind is working. This is the legal framework required to pave the way for the Star of the South offshore wind farm. As the Star of the South is proposed in Commonwealth Waters, without this framework there is no way to grant a generation license to the project. Its a decision that lies squarely with the federal government rather than the states.
It is good to see the federal Coalition government supporting technologies like offshore wind that will cut emissions, and this is a vote of confidence in the sector.
But if we compare the level of funding and detail for on offshore wind policy with the government’s plans for a so-called “gas-fired recovery” it’s clear the Morrison government still considers propping up fossil fuels a higher priority.
These offshore clean energy laws are too important to remain in development forever. Now the question is whether Energy Minister Angus Taylor can deliver on offshore wind in 2020?
Given the jobs and investment that would come with offshore wind projects, the federal government has opened itself up to the claim that they are going slow on developing a framework for offshore wind because of its ideological opposition to the technology.
While the Australian government begins taking baby steps, the UK government recently announced a major expansion of offshore wind with a plan to power every home in the country with wind power by 2030. This will see 40 gigawatts of wind energy built over the next decade. The UK already employs approximately 11,000 people in the offshore wind sector, with that figure expected to grow to as much as 27,000 by 2030.
While other jurisdictions are racing ahead on offshore wind, Australia risks being left behind with its go-slow approach.
Instead of trying to prop up fossil fuels, Energy Minister Angus Taylor should be using this time to bring to the national offshore clean energy framework to Parliament as a matter of urgency
Yes 2 Renewables will be paying close attention to progress on the offshore clean energy framework, and assessing whether Taylor can deliver on offshore wind in 2020.
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