A NUMBER of Australia’s largest renewable energy companies are threatening to pull the plug on new wind farm projects in Victoria following the state government’s decision to hand local councils planning control over new developments.
Energy providers say councils are too under-resourced to handle the new powers.
They have also said that a new requirement that all homes within a two-kilometre radius of a proposed turbine be identified could be the first step towards setting up a buffer zone, rendering many project unviable.
Pacific Hydro spokesman Andrew Richards said the company would look to other states for future wind farm developments when its $250 million pipeline of Victorian projects had been completed.
“At this point, we won’t be taking any new project through planning in Victoria,” he said.
“One of the key issues with the two-kilometre set-backs, under our current reading, is that it only takes one farmer to say no and they have veto over $300 million worth of regional investment.”
Union Fenosa Wind Australia engineering manager Shaq Mohajerani said he supported greater community consultation, but that the wind industry and financiers were eager to minimise risk and uncertainty.
“How these changes impact the planning process in practice will determine how financiers assess the health and prospects of the wind industry in Victoria,” he said.
Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy said there was no input from the Nationals in forming his position on wind farms and further legislative changes affecting the sector would be brought in later in the year during the spring session of parliament.
Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur cautiously welcomed the changes, but admitted some councils might play politics and deliberately block proposals and Allens Arthur Robinson partner Chris Schulz said most developers could abandon projects or mount a legal case in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. - AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW