The Victorian Government has announced that renewable energy projects will now be eligible for an accelerated planning pathway under the Development Facilitation Program (DFP).

Under the change, all new renewable projects in Victoria will be treated as significant economic development, making them eligible for an accelerated pathway – removing the planning panel process and third-party appeals at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). Renewable projects currently stuck in approvals will also be able to access the accelerated pathway.

Since 2015, more than one in five applications have ended up in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)  This change aims to prevent projects with objections that have been resolved or dealt with from being delayed in VCAT at the end of the process during the final ‘notice of decision’ stage – which in some instances has added two years to delivery. 

The change means that from the time a complete application is lodged for one of these new state significant projects, decisions can be made within four months.

The Victorian Government said, however, that the voices of communities who want to raise concerns with a proposal will continue to be protected. Third party objections will still have a place in the approvals process, but this change prevents time-consuming and repeated delays that hold these projects back for years.

Through the accelerated pathway, a dedicated facilitation team will oversee all renewable energy applications. Projects will also be monitored on an ongoing basis to identify blockers earlier and resolve them faster. 

Victorian Premier, Jacinta Allan, said that the government is cutting the red tape holding back projects that provide stronger, cheaper power for Victorians.

“The current system means that important projects can be tied up for years seeking approval,” Ms Allan said.  

“It delays construction and deters investment, and instead of spinning turbines, we’re too often left spinning our wheels.”

Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, Lily D’Ambrosio, said that Victoria’s old coal fired generators are closing and the cost of fossil fuels are rising globally. 

“Streamlining planning approvals for the cheapest form of new build power generation is so important,” Ms D’Ambrosio said. 

Victorian Minister for Planning, Sonya Kilkenny, said, “Putting renewables in the planning express lane means we can get more projects up and running sooner and provide Victorian households with cheaper and cleaner energy.”

Clean Energy Council response

Clean Energy Council Director of Energy Generation & Storage, Dr Nicholas Aberle, said that uncertainty on planning process timeframes and outcomes has been a leading cause of delay to renewable energy projects in Victoria. 

“We are hopeful that today’s announcement will play a part in resolving this uncertainty,” Dr Aberle said. 

“Our understanding is that renewable energy developers will still need to self-assess whether an environmental effects statement (EES) is required. Currently, projects that require an EES are ineligible for the DFP pathway, which would cover many wind projects. 

“This should be reviewed to ensure today’s announcement delivers on the acceleration it intends to provide.” 

Dr Aberle said that no new wind farms were approved for development in Victoria during 2023, demonstrating the need for a review of planning and assessment processes to achieve greater clarity and certainty for developers.

“In particular, last year’s decision on the Willatook Wind Farm exacerbated confusion about how wind farm proposals would be assessed, creating a chilling effect on the investment environment in Victoria.

“Ensuring consistent, predictable and timely decisions on renewable energy developments is critical to climate action in Victoria and a timely transition of our electricity system, which is now powered by almost 40 per cent renewable energy nationally.

“This isn’t a shortcut on good planning outcomes or the high standards that renewable energy projects must and should meet, but it is a sensible reform that recognises the vital importance of renewable energy in driving down emissions and replacing ageing and polluting coal-fired power stations.”

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