Adjournment – Wind Farm Planning

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Planning, and the action I seek is a sweeping reform of renewable energy permit requirements to help back local manufacturing and to keep Victorians in work.

Minister, last week international company GE decided to import wind towers for its Murra Warra wind farm near Horsham—rejecting a bid from Keppel Prince to produce the towers locally in Portland, using Australian steel.

This is because the permit you granted the wind farm in 2017 has absolutely no requirement for local content, because it is being wholly funded through private equity and is receiving no government backing through the Victorian renewable energy target (VRET).

This decision puts 150 jobs in Portland at risk; Keppel Prince is the only mainland manufacturer of wind towers in Australia, but because the permit you issued has no requirements for local content, the company is importing them from overseas.

Now the general manager of Keppel Prince, Steve Garner, will watch tower components imported from Vietnam through the port of Portland travel past the front door of his factory on their journey to Horsham.

With work for the second round of VRET not likely to come online until the middle of next year, work at Keppel Prince is drying up, putting local jobs at risk.

Labor likes to talk big when it comes to its renewable energy plan and how it’s keeping Victorians in jobs and driving energy prices down, but when you scratch the surface you begin to see that’s stretching the truth—in fact just 8.4 per cent of all Victoria’s announced large-scale solar power generation is actually going into the grid today.

When it comes to wind generation, of 55 announced projects, just 28 are actually operational, translating to just 37 per cent of their reported capacity, and that assumes the wind is blowing all the time. Labor talks a big talk, but the actual figures are underwhelming at best.

All renewable energy projects in this state—whether funded through the VRET or not—need to have a minimum local component manufacturing requirement to ensure that Victorians are benefiting from these projects and are being kept in work.

During the pandemic we have seen highlighted the importance of local manufacturing. On this side of the house, we have put a strong focus on this, committing to establish a $200 million fund to boost Victorian manufacturing.

Labor has been lax on manufacturing and have form when it comes to using imported materials for projects—steel from China for the West Gate Tunnel, Chinese bluestone in the level crossing removal projects and now this—Chinese or Korean steel to make wind towers in Vietnam.

But it’s not just local components that need to be considered when reforming the permit system for wind farms.

The National Wind Farm Commissioner has best practice guidelines for these types of developments that take into consideration the communities’ concerns about the industrialisation of the landscape, but this government ignores them.

The Moyne shire has aired these concerns recently—voting to oppose any further wind farms in the shire unless state planning authorities enforce seven recommendations made by the National Wind Farm Commissioner.

The shire and local residents are concerned about the industrial scale of these developments in the shire. If all the proposed wind farms for Moyne were built, it would be the equivalent of whole local government areas in the metro area.

No-one is denying the need for renewable energy, but people want to ensure Victorians are benefiting from these projects and they want better planning to ensure projects are appropriately planned and local concerns taken into consideration.