The Federal Government has lifted a ban on wind farm investment first introduced by former prime minister Tony Abbott.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt issued new advice to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), requesting a focus on “offshore wind technologies”.
Under the new mandate, signed by Mr Hunt and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann on December 3, the $10 billion fund will be allowed to invest in wind projects, as long as they incorporate “emerging and innovative” methods.
“The Government has also directed the Corporation to include, as part of its investment activities in clean energy technologies, a focus on offshore wind technologies,” the directive issued to the CEFC said.
“This recognises that, in many circumstances, the financing requirements for mature and established clean energy technologies such as onshore wind technologies may be met from commercial financing sources.”
In July, former treasurer Joe Hockey ordered the CEFC to stop funding wind power projects, as well as small-scale solar projects, a move condemned by the industry, as well as environmental groups and the Federal Opposition.
Five months later, the CEFC quietly announced $67 million in financing for Australia’s third largest wind farm at Ararat in Western Victoria.
It follows consultations with new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has promised more certainty for the renewable energy sector.
Acting Greens leader Larissa Waters said it was a small but welcome step.
“Tony Abbott was prepared to take the axe to renewable energy and was going to restrict investment,” she said.
“We know wind is going to be part of the solution and we’ve got some fantastic wind deposits here in Australia.”
‘A positive step forward’
Victoria’s Environment Minister Lisa Neville said the decision to overturn the ban was good news for local jobs and dealing with climate change.
“It’s been a very rocky 18 months for the industry and investment which has caused a lot of losses of jobs across Australia so this is a positive step forward,” she said.
South Australia’s Environment Minister Ian Hunter also welcomed the move.
“There are a number of wind farms in the pipeline. We’re aiming for $10 billion worth of investment, we’ve already had $6.4 billion, and I know that there’ll be a number announced in the new term,” he said.
The general manager of wind tower manufacturer Keppel Prince, Steve Garner, said it was the start of a new era for renewable energy under the Turnbull Government.
“People need to realise, the CEFC is a real strong arm of renewable energy and projects throughout the nation and there is an absolute need to maintain the CFEC’s position in the industry because it really does help any new wind farm to get up there going,” he said.
“With the RET out there at the moment being a target that needs to be met by 2020, I see the CEFC as an important group that need to survive to ensure that target is actually met.”
He said it was another level of certainty for the wind energy industry.
“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs but we’ve got two more federal elections before 2020 and I’d have a lot of confidence to say that target will increase dramatically,” he said.
Federal Liberal MP Dennis Jensen said the decision to start investing in wind farms again was a mistake.
“I think that’s a bad decision, to be quite frank,” he said.
“Wind power just does not cut it, and they pretend that they’re economically competitive but then they acknowledge that without things like RETs and renewable energy targets and also subsidies, there wouldn’t be any more wind turbines built.”
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