On 6 December 2022, the Western Australian State Government announced a new approach to fast-track green energy approvals, intended to 'slash approval timeframes' for green energy projects.
- A new dedicated cross-government Green Energy Assessment Unit will be established by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation.
- A Green Energy Panel comprising Government and industry will be established to provide the independent Environmental Protection Authority with the information needed to progress environmental approvals in a timely manner.
- A Green Energy Expert Projects Group will be set up to assist in steering individual projects through governmental processes.
- The new 'multi-pronged approach' is aimed at driving investment in conventional wind, solar and wave power generators, hydrogen industries, lithium mining and critical minerals processing, and green energy product manufacturing.
The State Government will work to develop novel assessment processes for green energy projects, to facilitate smoother and faster project approvals.
The new approach was announced alongside a $22.5 million commitment for its implementation.
Work to establish the Green Energy Assessment Unit has commenced, with the expectation that it will be in operation by mid next year.
Western Australia currently has an unprecedented number of renewable energy and critical minerals proposals under environmental assessment, with a significant number of new referrals in the pipeline.
- Further details relating to the exact scope of the Green Assessment Energy Unit, Green Energy Panel and Green Energy Expert Projects Group is yet to be released including which projects will qualify for the fast-tracked approvals process. Proponents of major projects should monitor for information relating to the types of projects which will qualify for the quicker environmental approval timeframes including how and if renewable energy components of larger projects
- No information has been released as to whether the fast-tracked approvals process will only apply to approvals required under Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act or also secondary approvals under that legislation.
- It remains to be seen whether approvals processes under other legislation and involving government departments other than the Department of Water and Environment Regulation, will be fast tracked. Renewable energy and critical minerals projects will be required to comply with the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 (WA) once it fully commences.
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