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.