15 November 2023

Alison Byrnes tells why she supports wind energy zones, on last day for public feedback

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Alison Byrnes delivers her energy zone submission to Chris Bowen.

Alison Byrnes delivers her wind energy zone submission to Federal Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen in Canberra. Photo: Supplied.

Community comment on the proposed Illawarra wind energy zone closes at midnight tonight (15 November).

The Federal Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen will consider all public submissions and feedback from Government agencies and stakeholders before making a decision on whether to declare all, some, or none of the proposed area as suitable for offshore renewable energy development.

Cunningham MP Alison Byrnes today (15 November) released her submission in favour of the proposal (below), attaching a number of conditions to her support.

“I believe that as a city of steel, renewable energy generation, manufacturing, a sustainable marine environment, tourism and other industries can co-exist in the region as they have done for decades.

My submission supports the proposal for the Illawarra Offshore Wind Zone; however, this support comes with a number of conditions. I recommend:

1. Based on strong community feedback, I recommend that the Government move the nearest point of the zone to the coast from 10 km to 20 km from shore.
2. To address concerns about the visual impact of an offshore wind farm, that developers and the department aim to minimise the height of any future development while allowing generation capacity to be met.
3. That only projects that meet the strictest environmental protections including strict requirements for marine, bird, wave, fishing and reef protections should be considered.
4. That a strong and fair community benefit dividend be incorporated as a requirement of the licensing structure.
5. Any offshore wind generation proposal must include remediation and end of life provisions so that materials used are either reused or recycled once it has reached end of life.
6. That any licensee has the highest local content provisions ensuring that local workers and businesses benefit in building and maintaining local power generation. We need to look at making turbines locally, building local industry capacity, local jobs and training our local workers.
7. The establishment of an Illawarra offshore wind local advisory committee that allows the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, and any future developers and researchers, to work with business, industry, unions, First Nations and community organisations to ensure that local community expectations and standards are upheld in any future development.

A chart showing the process to declare the Illawarra wind energy zone.

The process to declare the Illawarra wind energy zone is currently in phase 1. Photo: DCCEEW.

Our stunning Illawarra coastline is a special and magical place for all of us.

This consultation process has involved some very difficult conversations and generated a huge amount of feedback and questions within and beyond the formal process.

I have valued these conversations and compiled my submission based on thousands of conversations, emails, the department’s six consultation sessions attended by over 1200 people, and the additional two community forums that I convened, and that was attended by 750 people online and in person.

We currently have approximately 36 per cent renewable energy in the grid and it is going to be a huge task to lift this to 82 per cent by 2030 – it will involve a mix of solar, onshore wind, offshore wind, hydrogen, pumped hydro, batteries and other forms of renewable energy.

This is a significant task and one that must be shared fairly across our nation, and a task that we are required to tackle to protect our bushland from devastating fires, our beaches from erosion and our farmers from drought and floods.

READ ALSO The case against Illawarra wind energy: Too high a price to pay for desecration of ocean environment

Since my election as the Member for Cunningham in 2022, I have not shied away from discussing with the community the opportunities and challenges that face us as we seek to reduce emissions and decarbonise our economy, coupled with the need to sustain and create well paid jobs.

Considering an Illawarra offshore wind zone and how we prepare for the estimated close to 2500 construction jobs and 1250 ongoing jobs for local workers that could come with it is a large part of that community conversation.

Wollongong is recognised as a city of innovation – one that uses the world’s best science together with industry collaboration to overcome the transformational challenges we face. We have seen innovation and technological change adopted by local industry over many years and that has led to safer and less polluting methods of production that not only involve workers but benefited the entire region.

There are still many parts of this endeavour yet to be determined and the community has a direct role in shaping our future energy production should it progress. I would encourage everyone to seek their information from reputable sources –not blogs, websites or social media seeking to sow seeds of doubt or fear and spread misinformation.

We need to look at ways to ensure that genuine conversations can occur and genuine questions can be raised without the volumes of misinformation, fake emails and social media accounts spreading misinformation.”

For information on how to make a submission, visit the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water’s Illawarra website.

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