September 21, 2006

Wind farm pullout threat

Plans for a $300 million wind energy investment along south-west Victoria is likely to be abandoned if the Liberal Party wins the November state election.

The threat to pull out of the Portland wind energy project by Pacific Hydro because the Opposition’s pledge to abandon plans for a new renewable energy scheme were yesterday dismissed by the party as a political stunt.

Garry Weaven, executive chairman of Industry Funds Services, owner of Pacific Hydro, told The Age the company’s Portland development faced shelving and the Opposition’s policy made contracts for wind farms impossible to find.

Pacific Hydro’s executive manager of government and corporate affairs Andrew Richards yesterday told The Standard despite Mr Weaven being a well-known unionist the company’s stance on the Portland project was not political.

Mr Richards said the Opposition had indicated it would repeal the Government’s new Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) scheme which aims to have the state’s renewable energy use increased from 3.9 per cent to 10 per cent in 2016.

“With that it equated to about a $2 billion capital investment in Victoria and in Portland the Pacific Hydro project is worth about $250 to $300 million,” Mr Richards said.

He said Pacific Hydro was not the only company waiting for the outcome of the November election before making the final decision.

“At no stage have we backed away from the Portland project,” he said. “If the Liberal Party repeals the VRET a lot of renewable energy companies will not be making investments.”

The company’s stage one, the Yambuk wind farm is in the commissioning stage while stage two near Cape Bridgewater has planning permission for 33 turbines.

Stage three includes Cape Nelson and Cape Sir William Grant sites and would bring the company’s investment in the region to about $300 million.

Opposition Energy spokesman Phillip Davis said the threat was politically motivated by Mr Weaven and the party would not change its position on the energy target policy.

Mr Davis said under the Government’s plan consumers would subsidise the wind industry by $2 billion or about $60 a year per household every year, while the plan did nothing to abate greenhouse emissions.

He said the VRET legislation overall would cause job losses because of increased energy costs.

By Sarah Scopelianos

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