Australia’s first wind farm commissioner receives backing to create national standard on handling wind farm complaints
Australia’s first wind farm commissioner, Andrew Dyer, has soothed concerns that his role will stifle new investment in the wind energy sector.
Mr Dyer was appointed as commissioner in October after a Senate inquiry recommended stronger regulation and more oversight of the industry, citing “considerable gaps in understanding about the impact of wind turbines on human health”.
The Senate select committee, led by anti-wind farm crossbenchers, proposed the need to marginalise the role wind farms played in Australia’s renewable energy future, outlining solar energy as a more viable and socially compatible option.
The Clean Energy Council has welcomed the appointment of Mr Dyer, despite initial concerns the role was politically motivated and would damage the wind sector.
There has been a dramatic turnaround in the confidence the sector has in the commissioner’s position since Mr Dyer started in November.
Clean Energy Council policy manager Alicia Webb said they respected the intelligence and independence that Mr Dyer brought to the role after initial concern over the type of personality that would occupy the position.
“Whilst we didn’t encourage it at the time, we’ve come around and the whole industry is excited to work with him,” Ms Webb said.
“We think it can be quite an opportunity to have an independent, third party look at some of the issues going on in our industry, and hopefully help both the wind industry and the community work through some of their issues.”
Ms Webb said discussions around wind energy had become more positive with the change of federal leadership from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull.
Wind energy future looking brighter after change of leadership
“The previous federal leader did make a few interesting captain’s picks,” Ms Webb said.
“But Andrew Dyer has got experience with the telecommunications ombudsman and he’s got experience in the renewable energy industry, and he seems to be bringing a fair eye to the issues.”
Ms Webb had advice for the new commissioner, who is taking on the role at a heated time for policy makers.
“He is going to hear a lot from the community, he will hear a lot from anti-wind farm activists, he’ll hear a lot from the cross-bench senators.
“He is going to have to find his way through all of that and try to find the truth in the mix,” she said.
Independent leadership crucial for wind sector to succeed
Mr Dyer said for Australia to achieve the renewable energy target of 33,000 Gigawatt-hours of electricity coming from clean energy by 2020, the number of wind turbines in the country would have to double.
That opens the door for another 2000 wind turbines to be built in the next five years.
Mr Dyer said Australia needed an independent body to manage the rapid advancement of wind energy into 2020, including a function to handle and respond to complaints from local communities.
He said the best way to respond to the growing demand for clean energy would be to create certainty for industry groups and local communities around the approval and operation of new and existing wind farms, through achieving bipartisan support for the commissioner’s position and jointly established Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines.
Mr Dyer said he brought an impartial and independent voice to disputes and would provide a more transparent process for the deployment of future wind turbines.
“I have strong balance between community interest and industry. So I think I certainly have no bias or persuasion either way,” he said.
Part of role includes dealing with complaints
The commissioner will deal with complaints about noise and associated health effects of wind turbines, the impact of turbines on property values, and the effect of wind farms on TV and radio reception and aircraft..
The commissioner said he would work in a close relationship with the newly formed independent scientific committee to develop a national standard for handling complaints.
“I think it is a marriage between the science and the standard,” Mr Dyer said.
“The Government has appointed an independent scientific committee and I’ll be working with them to review the standards that are in place particularly around noise.
“There is a mixture of standards currently around Australia governing those matters, and we’ll be looking closely to see what is an appropriate standard, and have we got the standard set relative to health concerns,” he said.
Mr Dyer will meet with crossbenchers from the recently-dissolved Senate committee on wind turbines in coming weeks, to discuss the terms of reference for his new job and expectations about future investment and regulation of the industry.
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