Australia has the world’s highest uptake of rooftop solar, but it also has a huge dependency on coal. And the country just threw open the door to another clean energy source: offshore wind. On Thursday, its Parliament passed a law that establishes a regulatory framework for offshore wind power.
Offshore wind in Australia
The Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021 allows the government to designate areas in commonwealth waters more than three miles offshore for wind energy development. And its companion bill, the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure (Regulatory Levies) Bill 2021, “imposes an offshore electricity infrastructure levy on offshore electricity infrastructure license holders or those engaging in offshore infrastructure activities prescribed by regulations.”
These two new laws allow projects such as the 2.2 gigawatt offshore wind farm Star of the South off the coast of Victoria, which is expected to start construction in 2025, and Sun Cable, which will deliver solar power using an undersea cable from the Northern Territory to Singapore, to proceed. They also present a huge opportunity to launch further projects around Australia’s 16,000 miles of coastline.
Star of the South CEO Casper Frost Thorhauge said in a statement:
This bill is a major milestone in kick-starting a new industry, realizing Australia’s offshore wind potential and unlocking jobs and economic benefits for regional Australia.
Australia’s Minister for Industry, Energy, and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said:
This legislation will accelerate a number of key projects already under development – projects that include the Star of the South, Sun Cable, and the Marinus Link transmission line, which will connect the mainland to Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation project, strengthening reliability and helping to keep the lights on and energy prices low.
Combined, these three proposals, Marinus Link, Star of the South, and Sun Cable, are estimated to be worth over $10 billion and create over 10,000 direct and indirect job opportunities.
As Electrek reported on November 12, Australia earned the booby prize from Climate Action Network activists at COP26 – what the group called the “colossal fossil” award – for Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government’s climate inaction and support for fossil fuels. Australia currently gets 53% of its power from coal, 21% from gas, and 9% each from wind and solar. Hydro provides 6%, and 4% is other, according to Bloomberg NEF.
It’s been the actions of individual households, not Morrison’s government, that have put the country in its leadership position for rooftop solar.
And as climate scientist Michael Mann pointedly said to a government official on 60 Minutes Australia, “The cost of climate inaction far outweighs the modest cost of taking action.”
Embracing offshore wind is great news out of Australia, but that has to be coupled with firm plans to phase out coal and natural gas. When we hear the Land Down Under is doing the latter, we’ll get excited.
Read more: Australia to host the latest world’s largest solar farm
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