Western Victoria councils to lose millions because of wind farm uncertainty

Federal Government’s ongoing Renewable Energy Target review had made investors planning wind farms in Ararat Rural City Council, Northern Grampians Shire Council and Pyrenees Shire Council skittish.

Federal Government’s ongoing Renewable Energy Target review had made investors planning wind farms in Ararat Rural City Council, Northern Grampians Shire Council and Pyrenees Shire Council skittish.

THREE western Victorian councils stand to lose millions of dollars because of uncertainty in the green energy sector.

Ararat Mayor Paul Hooper said the Federal Government’s ongoing Renewable Energy Target review had made investors planning wind farms in Ararat Rural City Council, Northern Grampians Shire Council and Pyrenees Shire Council skittish.

“We have five wind farms between the three municipalities that are either proposed or in the planning stage,” he said.

“They are worth $2 billion in investment, $1 million a year in rates, 50 full-time employment jobs and a quarter of a million dollars a year in community grants. All of this is at risk because of the RET review.”

One of the planned wind farms is the $450-million Ararat Wind Farm.

The development, about 17 kilometres north-east of Ararat, will consist of up to 75 turbines.

Five of the turbines will fall within Northern Grampians Shire.

The remainder will be in Ararat Rural City.

“It’s shovel ready,” Cr Hooper said.

But he said the project would be canned if RES Australia, the wind farm developer, could not see benefit in it.

“It would go a long way to solving some of our sustainability issues,” he said.

“They would be the largest ratepayer we’ve got, paying about $300,000 a year in rates.”

Cr Hooper said the wind farm would bring about 165 construction jobs to the municipality for up to two years, and 13 permanent full-time jobs.

“Seventeen farming families will be a long way towards being drought-proofed by having the benefit of these wind towers on their properties,” he said.

Farmers will receive some compensation for any turbines on their land.

Cr Hooper said the development also rendered council eligible for about $75,000 a year in community grants.

He said Ararat Rural City Council made a submission to the RET review explaining its position.

Submissions closed on May 16.

A delegation from the three councils also raised the issue with Member for Wannon Dan Tehan earlier this month.

The RET review will examine the operation, costs and benefits of the scheme, which was developed to ensure 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020.

“The current political environment is seen not to be conducive to renewable energy, and as a result the industry is having a difficult time locking down finance and forward sale contracts,” Cr Hooper said.

“The industry is understandably quite nervous about its future.”

RES Australia Ararat Wind Farm project manager Annette Deveson told Fairfax Media potential changes to the RET scheme had affected investor confidence.

“We are working very hard to get the Ararat Wind Farm ready for construction,” she said.

“But the government is causing uncertainty in the industry and for us.

“They are not out there in the market looking for new projects.

“As a business you are uncertain of your future market.”

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