Australia, Policy, Projects, Renewables, Solar, Storage

Planning reforms crucial to unlock renewables investment

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A comprehensive report by the Clean Energy Investor Group (CEIG) has highlighted the urgent necessity for planning reforms across Australia.

These reforms are crucial to drive investment in renewable energy, storage, and transmission projects essential for meeting emissions targets.

The report, informed by a review of approval processes in Queensland, Victoria and under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) by Herbert Smith Freehills, identified key bottlenecks delaying project delivery and increasing costs.

In Victoria, planning permits for energy facilities took an average 376 days in 2022-23, with one wind farm application still awaiting a decision after 2,045 days as of 19 April 2024. Queensland data showed seven wind farms averaged 190 days for approvals during 2019-2021.

CEIG CEO Simon Corbell said inconsistent processes, lack of guidance on community consultation, and numerous approvals bodies are hindering vital clean energy investment.

“This report underscores the urgent need to address delays and inefficiencies that hinder progress on critical projects, imperative for meeting emissions reduction targets,” Corbell said.

The report recommends all jurisdictions clarify consultation processes, facilitate data sharing, streamline Commonwealth interactions including for Renewable Energy Zones, and improve understanding of cultural heritage with First Nations people.

It identifies EPBC Act assessments as the biggest challenge, putting Australia’s clean energy goals at risk and calls for improved predictability, transparency and timeliness.

In Queensland, investors highlighted reducing costs and delays from police escort requirements for mass transport. Victorian recommendations include risk-weighted impact assessment and allowing battery storage noise limit agreements with neighbours.

“Investment in clean energy projects is urgently needed to achieve net zero targets and the Delivering Major Clean Energy Projects report shows how planning processes can be enhanced to improve outcomes for communities, the environment and clean energy investment,” Corbell said.

“There is a clear need for planning and development reform to reduce project delays and help speed up the States’ energy transition. We’ve identified several opportunities, including quick wins and longer term recommendations, that would support this goal and the path to net zero,” Herbert Smith Freehills partner Heidi Asten said.

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