The Minister for Energy and Climate Change announced today a process seeking public feedback on a proposed new declared area for offshore wind projects off the coast of Warrnambool, Victoria to Port MacDonnell, South Australia.

  • On 28 June 2023, the Commonwealth Minister for Climate Change and Energy (Minister) proposed an area in Australian Commonwealth waters in the Southern Ocean off the coast of Warrnambool, Victoria to Port MacDonnell, South Australia for renewable energy projects, such as offshore wind.
  • Public submissions are invited on the proposal. We anticipate those submissions will cover a variety of issues, including impacts and opportunities for local community, visual amenity, and interaction with other marine uses such as fishing .
  • Submissions are to be made via DCCEEW’s Consultation Hub and must be received by Thursday 31 August 2023 in order to be considered.
  • If declared, we anticipate this offshore wind area will be Australia’s third declared area. Projects are already progressing in the area off the Gippsland coast (Victoria) with applications for feasibility licences currently being assessed. It is anticipated the Minister will also declare an area off the Hunter coast (NSW) imminently.
  • To read more on current issues for Australia’s offshore wind industry, see our June blog here.

Offshore renewable energy infrastructure area proposal: Southern Ocean

The offshore renewable energy regime in Commonwealth waters is governed by the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 (Cth) (Act) and regulations. Before projects can proceed to obtain licences under the Act, the Minister must first declare an area in which renewable energy infrastructure may operate. Public consultation prior to the declaration is an important preliminary step.

The Minister’s notice of proposal published 28 June 2023 (Proposal) shows an area stretching from Warrnambool to Port MacDonnell and includes Portland.

The Overview of the Proposed Area states that:

  • The area is the Traditional Land and Sea Country of the Gunditjmara, Eastern Maar, and the First Nations of the South East in South Australia, which is an important consideration, as projects in the declared area (if declared) will involve the installation of infrastructure across land and sea country in order to integrate with the Victorian electricity grid.
  • The Southern Ocean region is well suited for potential projects, particularly offshore wind, because:
    • it has strong, consistent wind;
    • it is close to areas of high electricity demand including Portland Aluminum Smelter and existing connections to the grid;
    • industry is very interested in developing projects in the area;
    • coal-fired power stations are planning to shut down in future years; and
    • the area is within the Victorian Government’s planned South West Renewable Energy Zone (REZ).
  • The area begins at least 5.4 nm (approx. 10 kms) from shore.
  • DCCEEW expects to receive submissions regarding visual amenity.

Submissions on the proposed Southern Ocean area

DCCEEW is seeking feedback in relation to how the Proposal may impact other interest holders in the proposed area, such as Traditional Owners and marine users. The Minister will consider all submissions which will inform the Minister’s decision on whether the proposed area is suitable for offshore renewable energy projects. After considering these submissions, the Minister may decide to remove parts of the proposed area or place conditions on all or part of the area before making a final declaration.

In the case of the first area declared off Gippsland, the area finally declared was significantly reduced in geographical extent compared with the area originally set out for public consultation.

Submissions on the Southern Ocean area are to be made via DCCEEW’s Consultation Hub and must be received by Thursday 31 August 2023 in order to be considered.  Further supporting documents, including an indicative map of the proposed area are also on the Consultation Hub.

Further information

To read more on current issues for Australia’s offshore wind industry, see our June blog here.

If you would like to understand what the Proposal means for you or if we can assist with a submission, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

by Heidi Asten, Partner, Alison Dodd, Partner, Rachel Foo, Senior Associate and Paige Mortimer, Solicitor.

Heidi Asten
Heidi Asten
Partner, Melbourne
+61 3 9288 1710
Alison Dodd
Alison Dodd
Partner, Melbourne
+61 3 9288 1870