Wind energy producers are in a twist after being forced to demonstrate they are operating within noise limits every time they seek to surrender renewable energy certificates.
As of the start of June, all large-scale power stations accredited under the renewable energy target will have to submit a “standing notice” of ongoing compliance with all local, state and federal planning and approval requirements.
Operators say they were only advised of the change late last week. Power stations, including hydro, will continue to be required to complete an annual electricity generation return as before.
“The standing notice was introduced to enhance the integrity of the large-scale renewable energy target,” a spokesperson for the Clean Energy Regulator said. “The standing notice will ensure the [regulator] is able to identify issues related to non-compliance as large-scale generation certificates are created.”
The change follows debate in the Senate last November over wind farm noise, with Democratic Labor Party’s John Madigan from Victoria calling for wind farm operators to provide wind and noise data to an independent authority every three months.
Senator Madigan stirred bemusement from the industry at the time with his call for the regulator to cancel a wind farm’s accreditation should it operate in contravention of a law “whether written or unwritten”.
Even though the proposed amendments failed, the regulator opted to require compliance proof before certificate payment “to avoid a hint of a hint” that the industry was falling short, an official said.
Jonathan Upson, senior development manager of regulatory affairs with wind farm owner Infigen Energy, said while all power generators should operate according to the regulations, state governments are the responsible authorities to ensure compliance with planning decisions. This includes having acoustic experts on staff.
“The benefit of having a federal energy regulator attempt to duplicate the compliance role of state government planning departments is not clear to us,” Mr Upson said.
The imposition of such requirements on the renewable sector – particularly the wind industry – was also discriminatory unless similar measures are applied to other energy providers.
“The next logical step would be for the Australian Energy Regulator to require monthly declarations from gas and coal-fired power stations, and their associated coal mines, that they are compliant with all air, water and noise pollution laws and regulations,” Mr Upson said.
Wind farm operators are also nervously awaiting a decision from the NSW cabinet, perhaps within three weeks, on whether to adopt tough new guidelines for the industry in the state.