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 Indian Ocean off the Bunbury region, Western Australia.

Snapshot

  • Bunbury region is the last of the 6 priority areas the Commonwealth Government identified for offshore wind development.
  • Public submissions are invited on the proposal. We anticipate those submissions may cover a variety of areas, from the energy transition and regional jobs to interactions with other marine users, including shipping and vessel traffic.

Submissions are to be made via DCCEEW’s Consultation Hub and must be received by 3 May 2024 to be considered.

Offshore renewable energy infrastructure area proposal: Bunbury

The Minister’s notice of proposal published on 20 February 2024 shows proposed declared area is located in Commonwealth waters, at least 20kms off the coastline, and extends from south of Dawesville to north of Cape Naturaliste.

Source: DCCEEW

Bunbury region proposed as suitable for offshore wind

The consultation documents state:

  • The area (if declared) is anticipated to deliver up to 20 GW of energy that could supply renewable energy into the South West Interconnected System (SWIS). This would assist the SWIS to decarbonise, supplying renewables into the South West region, where significant growth is predicted driven by a range of factors including expansion and electrification of established minerals and metals industries. DCCEEW notes offshore wind could play an important role in meeting the energy needs of the region as coal fired power stations are retired.
  • The Bunbury 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
  • Industry has identified interest in development projects in the proposed area
  • It has strong, consistent winds.
  • The government will require project proposals to demonstrate commitment to using Australian manufactured inputs in their projects.

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 Western Australian Governments. These include:

  • The Noongar people are the Traditional Owners of the region and have significant interests in the marine area, as part of their cultural heritage including Sea Country. DCCEEW is engaging with WA First Nations communities during the proposal process, and any future feasibility licence holders (if the area is declared) will be required to continue this engagement.
  • Shipping traffic and proximity to the Port of Bunbury and Port of Fremantle
  • Defence
  • Commercial and recreational fisheries
  • Marine environment. DCCEEW states that the proposed area avoids all marine parks, avoids seagrass meadows along the coast and in Geographe Bay, and avoids many other important marine areas. However, the area includes protected matters under the EPBC Act (Commonwealth environment protection legislation), including key ecological feature areas. We note DCCEEW has released Guidance on key factors for environment impact assessment under the EPBC Act (to read more, see our note here).

Source: DCCEEW. The coloured shapes depict various Australian marine parks.

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

Bunbury is the sixth 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 closed 14 November 2023 and are being assessed. To read more, see our note here.
  • Southern Ocean (Vic/SA) – consultation on the proposed declared area closed 31 August 2023. The Minister is yet to make a decision whether to declare the area. To read more, see our note here.
  • Illawarra (NSW) consultation on the proposed declared area closed 15 November 2023. The Minister is yet to make a decision whether to declare the area. To read more, see out note here.
  • Bass Strait (Tas) consultation on the proposed declared area closed 31 January 2024. The Minister is yet to make a decision whether to declare the area. To read more, see out note here.

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 Melanie Debenham (Partner), Heidi Asten (Partner), Alison Dodd (Partner) and Paige Mortimer (Solicitor)

Melanie Debenham
Melanie Debenham
Partner, Perth
+61 8 9211 7560
Heidi Asten
Heidi Asten
Partner, Melbourne
+61 3 9288 1710
Alison Dodd
Alison Dodd
Partner, Melbourne
+61 3 9288 1870