En­ergy im­pe­tus

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Front Page - BY DEAN LAW­SON

AWim­mera thrust to dra­mat­i­cally in­crease the re­new­ableen­ergy po­ten­tial of the re­gion is set to gain mo­men­tum at a ma­jor com­mu­nity gath­er­ing in Stawell later this month.

The ca­pac­ity of elec­tri­cal in­fra­struc­ture across much of the re­gion falls well short of match­ing western Vic­to­rian growth in the sec­tor and de­vel­op­ment lead­ers are des­per­ate for gov­ern­ment sup­port and ac­tion.

Wim­mera De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ralph Kenyon con- firmed that is­sues sur­round­ing the cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of re­new­able-en­ergy in the re­gion would be high on a Wim­mera South­ern Mallee Re­gional Assem­bly agenda on May 30.

“It is clearly a pri­or­ity is­sue for our re­gion – not only in terms of long-se­cu­rity of en­ergy for our re­gion – but also the state,” he said.

Mr Kenyon said there was a need for clar­ity on var­i­ous is­sues sur­round­ing re­new­able-en­ergy de­vel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion in the re­gion, es­pe­cially in es­tab­lish­ing foun­da­tions to move for­ward.

Mr Kenyon said key is­sues likely to at­tract at­ten­tion on the sub­ject of re­new­able en­ergy at the re­gional assem­bly in­cluded –

• Un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing en­ergy pol­icy and role of re­new­ables in en­ergy mix;

• A lack of un­der­stand­ing of the en­ergy mar­ket;

• The re­gion grid ca­pac­ity;

• The opaque of in­dus­try ac­tiv­ity;

• Plan­ning ap­provals com­plex­ity and time frames;

• Frag­men­ta­tion of projects and in­dus­try;

• Lack of lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing and main­te­nance ca­pa­bil­ity.

“We’re hoping to get some ideas and in­put from the broader com­mu­nity,” Mr Kenyon said.

“Our part of the world has been clearly iden­ti­fied for its po­ten­tial to gen­er­ate high lev­els of re­new­able en­ergy, which has led to ma­jor play­ers es­tab­lish­ing or plan­ning to es­tab­lish farms.

“But we re­main heav­ily ham­strung by the old in­fra­struc­ture we have in place.”

“Sim­ply put, mak­ing re­new­able-en­ergy to kick de­vel­op­ment goals in our re­gion is about hav­ing pow­er­lines ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing the high lev­els of elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated from re­new­able power plants and farms,” Mr Kenyon said.

He said it was im­por­tant to look be­yond a lack of for­mal com­mit­ment to ad­dress the is­sue in the lat­est state and fed­eral bud­gets.

“The re­al­ity is that this is big­ger than just one bud­get. The key now is to keep push­ing and con­sol­i­dat­ing the mes­sage and get­ting it on the state and na­tional agenda,” he said.

“At the mo­ment we’re talk­ing about ex­ploit­ing en­ergy gen­er­ated from wind and the sun. But the in­dus­try has the po­ten­tial to head into a va­ri­ety of path­ways that might also in­volve har­ness­ing bio­fu­els, waste and even geo­ther­mal op­por­tu­ni­ties. We need to be in a po­si­tion to col­lec­tively take ad­van­tage of this.”

The Aus­tralian En­ergy Mar­ket Op­er­a­tor, AEMO, has warned that wind and so­lar-project de­vel­op­ers in the re­gion run a high risk of ‘cur­tail­ment’, or a cut in their en­ergy-gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity, be­cause of the weak elec­tri­cal grid. It has added there are also is­sues sur­round­ing ‘mar­ginal loss fac­tors’, based on how much en­ergy pro­duced at each site will be able to reach its des­ti­na­tion.

Shoring up en­ergy op­por­tu­ni­ties is one of many is­sues peo­ple from North­ern Grampians, Hind­marsh, Hor­sham, West Wim­mera and Yar­ri­ambi­ack mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties who gather at the re­gional assem­bly in Stawell Town Hall will dis­cuss.

Re­new­able en­ergy is also high on the agenda of a Cen­tral High­lands Re­gional Assem­bly, which in­volves Ararat, in Bal­larat next month.

The as­sem­blies are in their third year since the State Gov­ern­ment es­tab­lished nine Re­gional Part­ner­ships across Vic­to­ria in 2016.

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