The Australian Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) announced yesterday that it is seeking public feedback on the possible effects of renewable energy projects off the NSW Hunter coast. This announcement follows last year's declaration of part of Bass Strait off Victoria's Gippsland coast as Australia's first offshore renewable energy infrastructure zone.
- On 23 February 2023, the Commonwealth Minister for Climate Change and Energy (Minister) proposed an area in Australian Commonwealth waters in the Pacific Ocean off the NSW Hunter coast for renewable energy projects, such as offshore wind.
- Public submissions are invited on the proposal. We anticipate those submissions will cover a variety of issues from the need to fast track the viability of offshore wind to visual amenity and tourism to the marine environment and competing uses such as shipping channels and oil and gas.
- Submissions are to be made via DCCEEW's Consultation Hub and must be received by Friday 28 April 2023 in order to be considered.
- If declared, this offshore wind area will be Australia's second declared area. Projects are already progressing in the area off the Gippsland coast with applications for feasibility licences currently open.
Offshore renewable energy infrastructure area proposal: Pacific Ocean off NSW Hunter coast
The offshore renewable energy regime in Commonwealth waters is government by the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 (Cth) (Act) and regulations. Before projects can proceed to obtain licences under the Act, the Minister must first declare an area in which renewable energy infrastructure may operate. Public consultation prior to the declaration is an important preliminary step.
The Minister's notice of proposal published 23 February 2023 (Proposal) shows an area stretching from Norah Head in the south, past Newcastle and up to Port Stephens in the north.
The Overview of the Proposed Area states that:
- The Hunter region is well suited for potential projects,
particularly offshore wind, because:
- it has strong, consistent wind;
- it is close to areas of high electricity demand and existing connections to the grid;
- industry is very interested in developing projects in the area;
- Coal-fired power stations in the Hunter including Lidell, Eraring and Bayswater are planning to shut down in future years; and
- the area is within the NSW Government's proposed Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone (REZ).
- The area begins at least 5.4 nm (approx. 10 kms) from shore.
- DCCEEW expects to receive submissions regarding visual amenity.
Submissions on the proposed Hunter area
DCCEEW is seeking feedback in relation to how the Proposal may impact other interest holders in the proposed area, such as marine users. The Minister will consider all submissions which will inform the Minister's decision on whether the proposed area is suitable for offshore renewable energy projects. After considering these submissions, the Minister may decide to remove parts of the proposed area or place conditions on all or part of the area before making a final declaration.
In the case of the first area declared off Gippsland, the area finally declared was significantly reduced in geographical extent compared with the area originally set out for public consultation.
Submissions on the Hunter area are to be made via DCCEEW's Consultation Hub and must be received by Friday 28 April 2023 in order to be considered.
The full Proposal and an indicative map of the proposed area can be seen here.
To understand the Act and the full life-cycle of offshore electricity infrastructure in more detail, see our previous blog here.
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