Australian Senate’s Environment and Communications Legislation Committee has endorsed the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021 and the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure (Regulatory Levies) Bill 2021, introduced last month by the country’s Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor.
The committee said that, even though the bills established a framework with much of the detail currently unknown, the framework was intended to support highly valuable offshore infrastructure activities that would contribute significantly to Australia’s economy and clean energy future.
As reported last month, the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021 would allow the government to designate areas in Commonwealth waters more than three miles offshore for wind energy development. In addition, the accompanying Offshore Electricity Infrastructure (Regulatory Levies) Bill 2021 would allow for the imposition of levies on regulated entities to recover the regulatory costs.
Following the bills’ introduction on 2 September, the Senate referred the provisions of the bills to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 14 October 2021.
In its report, the committee said significant economic, social and environmental opportunities would be promoted through the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021, if the legislative framework was well-crafted from the outset.
“The committee agrees that it is important for the framework to be enacted as soon as possible, to create industry certainty, sufficient lead time for complex project design and financing, and workforce delivery in alignment with forecast closure of current energy assets”, the committee said in its report issued this month.
The committee also noted that the regulations that set out significant parts of the operational framework for the offshore electricity infrastructure will not be completed until well into 2022. “However, the committee considers it necessary to take this time to consult widely and develop and present complex and articulate legislation”, the committee said.
The continuing regulatory development phase presents the Australian Government with the opportunity to consider the extensive and valuable feedback to this inquiry, according to the committee.
“While some suggestions might require more long-term consideration, the committee considers that there are others where there can be a more immediate response”, the committee stated, adding that a more immediate response could be provided on amending the objects clause to better incorporate electricity transmission objectives, amending the consultation requirements for declared areas, and considering amendments to the changes in control provisions.
According to Friends of the Earth, there are now at least ten major offshore wind projects proposed around Australia, including the 2.2 GW Star of the South project proposed for Gippsland.
”This legalisation is a key step to realising Australia’s offshore wind potential and unlocking the associated economic benefits, including providing opportunities for the nation’s strong resources and maritime sectors,” Star of the South CEO, Casper Frost Thorhauge, said after the offshore wind bills were introduced.