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The Federal Government has announced area off the Gippsland coast will be assessed as a priority area for suitability for Australia’s first offshore wind project.

Bass Strait has been selected for its comparatively favourable wind conditions, investor interest, indications of support from the Victorian Government, and identified grid connection plans. 

Backing offshore wind is intended to aid Australia to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. 

The Federal Government’s technology-focused plan is supported by a further $1.3 billion of new investment in the 2022-23 Budget to maintain energy security, and keep downward pressure on electricity prices while reducing emissions.

Assistant Minister to the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction, Tim Wilson, said the Federal Government is implementing Australia’s first Offshore Electricity Infrastructure framework to enable a new industry to emerge and to secure affordable energy, jobs and investment as part of building Australia’s clean industrial future. 

“The Federal Government is backing the creation of an Australian offshore wind industry by identifying priority areas for assessment,” Mr Wilson said. 

“We’re pressing down on the accelerator and delivering a pathway to decarbonisation.

“Our government understands that a strong offshore energy sector can help provide clean and affordable power to households, businesses, and industrial consumers.

“An offshore electricity industry could create thousands of new jobs and drive the economic growth of our regional and coastal economies.”

Star of the South

The announcement promises development for Star of the South, a proposed 2GW wind farm in Bass Strait off the south coast of Gippsland.

The project has the potential to supply power to 1.2 million homes and deliver up to 20 per cent of Victoria’s electricity needs.

Star of the South is expected to create around 2,000 direct jobs in Victoria over its lifetime, including 760 Gippsland jobs during construction and 200 ongoing local jobs once it’s up and running.

The project would invest around $8.7 billion in Victoria, including injecting an estimated $6.4 billion directly into Gippsland’s economy.

Federal Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, said that the announcement is good news for Gippsland with the proposed Star of the South project expected to support local jobs and increase renewable energy infrastructure.

“This first step will help to ensure the area is suitable for offshore wind developments and has appropriate safeguards to protect local marine life and the surrounding environment,” Mr Chester said.

“I look forward to seeing the outcome of the assessment and the progress of the project.”

Further assessment

The area announced recently announced only represents the start of this process, which will kickstart further assessment, including strong consultation with local communities and existing maritime users.

The Federal Government will evaluate and announce further areas for development as they are identified and prioritised, once the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 commences in June 2022.

Ensuring local communities can have their say is a critical part of this process, with a minimum 60-day public consultation period required.

Assessments will focus on the impact of offshore renewable energy infrastructure activities on the area, with particular focus on the environment including marine life and migratory birds, fishing, shipping, other marine uses, and local communities. 

The Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act provides a framework for granting licences to undertake offshore electricity infrastructure activities in Commonwealth offshore areas.

On 22 March 2022, the Federal Government released draft regulations for the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure framework for public consultation. The draft regulations set out operational arrangements, including the licensing scheme, fees and levies. 

The consultation period on the regulations is open until 22 April 2022 and provides a mechanism for investors and stakeholders to provide important feedback.

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