King Island Mayor Greg Barratt has conceded Federal Government plans to reduce the renewable energy target means Hydro Tasmania’s $2 billion, 200-turbine wind farm is all but sunk.
The Government has so far refrained from announcing its new target, but yesterday Prime Minister Tony Abbott admitted he was committed to getting the RET “appropriately reduced and adjusted”.
Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the RET would be maintained at the level of a “real 20 per cent” of electricity demand in 2020, not the projected demand made previously by Labor. This means the Government’s position is likely to bring a reduction from the previous target of 41,000 gigawatt hours down to 27,000 GWh.
“I would say this spells the end of the proposal to build the wind farm,” Mr Barratt said.
“That’s the end of renewable energy investment on the island.”
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Cr Barratt said Hydro was expecting an announcement on the RET within a fortnight.
A Hydro Tasmania spokeswoman said the company would make a decision about the wind farm when there was an official Federal Government announcement.
Hydro has almost completed a feasibility study into wind farm proposal, which is the biggest in the southern hemisphere.
It is one of 16 major renewable energy companies to argue for the retention of the present RET.
The project was forecast to pump more than $7 million a year into the King Island economy and provide an estimated $220 million annual revenue boost to the state’s coffers. Construction was to have created 400 jobs and another 20 permanent jobs for the tiny the Bass St island population of 1500 people.
Debate over the pros and cons of the proposal had divided the small community, Cr Barratt said.
“Some will be delighted and some will see it as a missed opportunity.’’
State Energy Minister Matthew Groom said he would wait to see further details on the Federal Government’s RET proposal “but at first glance it appears to be good news for Tasmanian jobs”.
“We will continue to lobby for an outcome that supports both Tasmanian jobs as well as Tasmanian renewable investment,’’ Mr Groom said.
Labor leader Bryan Green said the Federal Government’s proposed changes to the RET would spell the end of billions of dollars worth of future investment in renewable energy projects in Tasmania.
Mr Green called on the State Government to show it was prepared to put Tasmania’s interests “ahead of its cosy relationship with Tony Abbott’’.
“This amounts to economic and environmental sabotage, and shows once again that the Abbott Government is prepared to sell Tasmania down the river,’’ he said.
“I call on Matthew Groom to say whether he supports the changes, which will put Hydro Tasmania’s already fragile finances in further jeopardy.”
Bass federal MP Andrew Nikolic was contacted for comment.
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