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Communities 'to have a say' in wind farm deals

Australia will lead the world with the launch today of a wind farm accreditation scheme designed to include documented consultation with the community.

The scheme, created by the Clean Energy Council, will involve an independent audit to ensure that any proposed wind farm complies with industry guidelines.

The Clean Energy Council’s chief executive, Dominique La Fontaine, who will announce the scheme at the annual AusWind conference, said it would give the community added confidence in proposed wind farm projects.

“Transparent and documented community consultation helps build trust and ongoing local relationships,” she said.

“The independent auditing process assists regulators and planners fulfil their responsibilities. And of course the industry benefits through consistent practices and continual improvement.”

Steve Sawyer, head of the world’s leading wind energy body, the Global Wind Energy Council, told those at the first day of the AusWind conference that governments would increasingly look to wind energy as they discussed a post-Kyoto agreement on emissions reduction.

Mr Sawyer said Australia should look to the US, which ranks only behind Germany in terms of installed wind capacity.

“The US is nearing as the leader in installed wind capacity and is likely to eclipse Germany,” he said. “I hope to see Australia on this list very soon.”

Mr Sawyer said mature energy sources such as wind would play a greater role as countries began to negotiate an emissions reduction target when the Kyoto Protocol expired in 2012.

“As governments get serious about post-2012 agreements, they will be coming to us and saying can you do more because they have no other solution by 2020,” he said.

“If you believe what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says, then we can have a divergence of opinions on the way forward. But what we need to worry about now is what we do by 2020 and a lot of things, like carbon capture and storage, won’t be able to make a significant impact on cuts by 2020.”

Derek Kidley, energy sector leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said he thought it would take five to seven years, if the right policy settings were in place, before Australia made it into the top 10.

PwC’s Global Utilities Survey, released earlier this year, showed a sharp increase in the number of executives who believed wind energy would form a large share of their energy consumption in the next five years.

“In 2006, only 17 per cent thought so,” he said. “That figure for 2007 jumped up 48 per cent. Wind is definitely on the up and is seen increasingly as a solution around the globe.”

Mr Kidley said PwC was an example of the generational change that would drive a switch towards renewable energy.

“I work for a company where the average age of employees is 28,” he said. “We have made a commitment to be carbon neutral by July 5 next year.

“That has been called for from within and we, like any other business, will not retain our people unless we change. There is a greater response by companies because this is what consumers are also calling for. That will be the driver for change.”

By Mathew Murphy

The Age

9 October 2007