Ambitious plans for 9GW of offshore wind off Australia's coast have been announced by Victoria's state government, which says it is aiming for the first power from offshore wind by 2028, following a competitive process.
“For the first time anywhere in Australia, we will set a minimum target for offshore wind power generation,” said Daniel Andrews, Victoria’s Labor Premier, as he announced the plans during a State of the State speech.
“By 2032, Victoria will reach a massive 2GW of offshore wind energy production, that’s the equivalent of 20% of Victoria’s energy needs today, [and] set a target of 4GW by 2035 and, finally, 9GW by 2040 – targets, ladies and gentlemen, that we will meet and we will exceed,” he said.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Andrews said his country "lags the developed world when it comes to renewable energy generation”. With 60% of Australia's energy mix still coming from fossil fuels, he accused the country's national Federal government of having "second-rate renewable energy ambitions".
Victoria is already ahead in Australia's fledgling offshore market, with the 2.2GW Star of the South project planned off the south coast of Gippsland in Victoria. Last year, the state government entered a $43.1 million partnership with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) for the project, which is in federal waters. The project is set to be the first offshore wind farm in Australia. Other projects that could now move forward with plans include Blue Float Energy and Energy Estate's 1.3GW Greater Gippsland wind farm and Atlinta Energy's 1GW plan off the Portland coast.
With federal legislation, in the form of the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill, finally passed in November, offshore electricity projects can now proceed in Australia. Victoria's 9GW plan will help the state towards its goal for 50% of electricity supply from renewables by 2030 and the state is intent on fast-tracking projects. Andrews said the plan "is the clearest and best signal that we can send to investors – to those who will build and operate and those who want to invest in this resource”.
He added: "It’s more than a signal, though, it’s a message from a government with a proven track record of getting things done. And a government not prepared to simply say, well that’s a matter for the Feds, who we know will do precious little about it.”
Jobs and growth
The offshore wind plan is expected to see $5.8 billion in economic activity and "create thousands more jobs, on top of the 24,000 jobs created through the 2030 renewable target", Andrews added.
The overall aim is for renewables to replace coal, which under the Australian Energy Market Operator’s latest Integrated System Plan, is expected to cease in the state by 2032. A public consultation enabling all stakeholders and the industry to review and comment on the Offshore Wind Policy Directions Paper is expected to start in April 2022. An Offshore Wind Implementation Statement, providing further details on the first offshore wind tranche, is then planned for later this year.
Welcoming the plans, the Clean Energy Council (CEC) said Victoria's coastal regions have the potential to support 13 GW of offshore capacity by 2050 – five times the current renewable generation in Victoria. CEC's Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, said: "Today's announcement locks in a major offshore wind industry for Victoria. Offshore wind is no longer a possibility; it's becoming a certainty."
Star of the South CEO Casper Frost Thorhauge added: “We congratulate the Victorian Government on its leadership in setting strong targets for offshore wind. It’s exciting to see the scale of this ambition, with the aim of first power by 2028, which will kick-start a new industry for Victoria."