The Minister for Climate Change and Energy announced this week he is seeking public feedback on a proposed new declared area for offshore wind and other renewable projects in the Bass Strait, off Northern Tasmania.
- Public submissions are invited on the proposal. We anticipate those submissions may cover a variety of areas, from regional jobs and the marine environment to interactions with other marine users.
- Submissions are to be made via DCCEEW’s Consultation Hub and must be received by 31 January 2024 to be considered.
Offshore renewable energy infrastructure area proposal: Bass Strait
The Minister’s notice of proposal published on 24 October 2023 shows proposed declared area is located in Commonwealth waters and extends from off the coast of Wynyard/Burnie, to east of Bridport.
Source: DCCEEW, here
The area proposed does not include an area further to the west, that AEMO earmarked as a candidate offshore wind zone in an appendix to its 2022 ISP for the National Electricity Market.
We note the upper boundary appears to meet the southern extent of the Gippsland Declared Area (Part 3).
Source: DCCEEW here
Bass Strait proposed as suitable for offshore wind
The overview of the proposed area and other explanatory documents state:
- The Minister has stated offshore wind projects can assist in meeting Australia’s target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as offshore wind can be a source of significant new large-scale power generation for manufacturing hydrogen, green steel and green aluminium.
- The Tasmanian Aboriginal Community has significant interests in the Bass Strait area. The Commonwealth Government will consult with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community during the proposal process, and any future feasibility licence holders (if the area is declared) will be required to continue this engagement.
- The Bass Strait region is well suited for offshore wind projects for some of the same reasons as the other proposed or declared areas:
- It is close to areas of high electricity demand and has a significant transmission, transport and port infrastructure already in place
- There is significant interest from industry in development projects in the proposed area
- It has strong, consistent winds.
Existing users and interests
The DCCEEW has provided a document outlining the existing users and interests in the proposed area, identified during its initial consultation with Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments. These include:
- Traditional Owners of the land and sea country
- Airports and Defence; commercial and recreational fisheries
- Protected matters under the EPBC Act (Commonwealth environment protection legislation) are present in and near the proposed area, including sea birds, whales and sharks. We note DCCEEW has released Guidance on key factors for environment impact assessment under the EPBC Act (to read more, see our note here)
- The area begins at least 20 km offshore. The closest distance to Flinders Island is 48 km away.
DCCEEW emphasises that future offshore renewable energy projects will need to demonstrate how they will share the marine area with existing users and interests, including seeking feedback from other marine users and interest-holders as part of project planning.
Status of declared areas and feasibility licence processes around Australia
The Bass Strait is the fifth area proposed for offshore renewable energy under the Commonwealth’s Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 regime. The current status of other areas is:
- Gippsland (Vic) – feasibility licence applications closed in April 2023 and are being assessed;
- Hunter (NSW) – feasibility licence applications opened on 8 August 2023 and close 14 November 2023. To read more, see our note here.
- Southern Ocean (Vic/SA) – the Minister sought feedback on the proposed declared area and is yet to make a decision whether to declare the area. To read more, see our note here.
- Illawarra (NSW) – Consultation on proposed declared area closes 15 November 2023. To read more, see out note here.
- The Indian Ocean region off Perth/Bunbury, Western Australia – DCCEEW has flagged details and public consultation process will be announced later this year.
If you would like to discuss your project, understand what the Minister’s 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 and Paige Mortimer, Solicitor.