A large wind farm proposed for near Goulburn in NSW has been shelved after protests from local landholders including Maurice Newman, the former head of the Australian Securities Exchange who has been anointed to chair a new business advisory council if the Coalition wins this year’s federal election.
The planning application for the 100-turbine Golspie wind farm, lodged by renewable energy developer Wind Prospect CWP, lapsed last week, with the company citing “wind resource, land security and grid connection issues”.
Mr Newman, who opposes wind farms and has pledged to lobby against subsidies for them, argues that fluctuations in output from renewable energy sources have increased power costs for consumers by requiring the construction of expensive backup generators.
Mr Newman belongs to Landscape Guardians, a community lobby group that actively campaigns against all wind farms in the Upper Lachlan shire, where he owns land.
In January Tony Abbott announced that Mr Newman – appointed by the Howard government to chair the ABC – was his choice to head a new business advisory council for a Coalition government.
“The cost of energy was a comparative advantage for Australia, which offset the relatively higher wage rates of our population,” Mr Newman told The Australian yesterday. “That benefit has been squandered and you can’t underestimate the role of renewable energy behind that lack of competitiveness.
“What the present government has done is decide we should make Australia less competitive by lifting the price of electricity.
“Therefore, if there is a change of government, I’m sure that any business council that I chair will be of a mind to restore Australia’s international competitiveness.”
Labor’s Renewable Energy Target aims to have 20 per cent of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2020. The Coalition intends to review the RET next year if it wins the election, and could rely on Mr Newman’s advice to scrap the target.
Climate Change Minister Mark Butler said the system was working. “Labor stands by our unprecedented investment in clean, renewable energy which is driving a transformation of the Australian economy with a 30 per cent increase in renewable energy generation in the last 12 months and a 7 per cent drop in carbon pollution in the national electricity market,” he said.
Local councillor Malcolm Barlow said Wind Prospect CWP was concerned that a Coalition government would make wind farms uneconomic. “I think the reason (the application) has lapsed, given the upcoming election, is the Coalition is going to review the renewable energy target system and carbon tax,” Mr Barlow said.
He said he strongly opposed windfarms because they were uneconomic, relying on a subsidy of upto $ 3 million a year per turbine.
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