Independent review for wind farms
Tuesday, 16th September, 2014
By Andrew Robertson
The Clean Energy Council has backed changes to the way wind farms are to be assessed in NSW - as long as it doesn't drive up costs.
Wind farm development applications will now automatically be referred to an independent panel of experts for determination, the government announced yesterday.
The Planning Assessment Commission will assess new and current wind farm applications, according to Planning Minister Pru Goward, who said the process would take the government "out of the equation".
The changes won't affect the proposed Silverton Wind Farm, which has already been granted planning approval until May 2016.
Clean Energy Council Policy Director Russell Marsh said the council supported an independent planning process that ensured a strong role for people living close to proposed wind farms.
"It's obviously important to get this process right and make sure there is adequate transparency and consistent decision-making that will take the uncertainty out of the process for wind farm companies and allow proper business planning," Mr Marsh said.
According to analysis by ROAM Consulting, NSW has could gain the most from the National Renewable Energy Target (RET), with some $5 billion in future investment at stake.
But Mr Marsh said this could be lost to other states if the new assessment process added costs to projects.
But none of this will matter, he said, if the Federal Government decides to slash the RET, which would reduce the amount of potential investment in NSW by about 80 per cent.
The government has also changed how people are appointed to wind farm community consultative committees to ensure there is no bias.
"I've been made aware several proponents have appointed members to a community consultative committee where undue bias has been demonstrated - this undermines community participation and will not be tolerated," Ms Goward.
Under the reforms, Department of Planning and Environment will be responsible for selecting committee members through an open expression of interest process.
A spokesman for AGL Energy said the Silverton Wind Farm consultative committee "had both appropriate and independent representation" and that AGL regularly provided information requested to the committee.
The next CCC meeting is scheduled for October 23.