The federal government has introduced legislation to unlock a wave of new investment in offshore electricity generation and transmission projects.
The Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021 will establish a framework for the construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of offshore electricity projects.
Minister for Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, said it will strengthen the Australian economy, create jobs and a new offshore industry.
“Offshore generation and transmission can deliver significant benefits to all Australians through a more secure and reliable electricity system, and create thousands of new jobs and business opportunities in regional Australia,” he said.
“Importantly this Bill will accelerate a number of projects already under development like the Marinus Link transmission line, which will connect the mainland to Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation project."
Passage of this Bill will help progress a number of projects that are already under development including ‘Star of the South’ off the coast of Gippsland, Victoria, and ‘Sun Cable’ in the north.
Combined, Marinus Link, Star of the South and Sun Cable are estimated to be worth over $10 billion and are expected to create over 10,000 direct and indirect job opportunities during construction.
The legislation covers infrastructure projects for offshore electricity transmission cables and offshore renewable energy generation, including offshore wind.
Taylor said the legislation safeguards the environment and requires project developers to make financial commitments to properly decommission projects when they are no longer productive.
He said this ensures taxpayers do not foot the bill for the removal of any retired assets in the future.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Electrical Trades Union of Australia (ETU) welcomed the bill to Parliament as it follows more than two years of advocating for the exploration of offshore renewables in Australian waters.
MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said its members have the skills to build these projects and are keen to get started.
“The legislation must also allow for jobs and regional development to be included in licencing requirements and that renewable energy developments won’t face unfair decommissioning taxes that aren’t currently applied to oil and gas projects,” Crumlin said.
ETU assistant national secretary Michael Wright said each offshore renewable project can create thousands of construction jobs and then hundreds of ongoing operation and maintenance jobs, and the supply chain opportunity in creating manufacturing components for projects means this new industry could play a much larger role in transitioning workers and communities who are currently being impacted by the energy transition.
“But to maximise local jobs and economic benefits, the Government needs to ensure a good pipeline of projects is created through an offshore wind industry package,” Wright said.
“This should include investment in offshore wind port terminals and manufacturing hubs, particularly in areas like Gippsland, the Illawarra and Newcastle.
“This government is pouring hundreds of millions into coal seam gas and fracking projects, gas pipelines and gas power plants even though their own regulator AEMO continues to say that gas and coal use in Australia is in structural decline.
“Offshore wind can provide thousands of jobs in an industry that could be developed quickly, would reduce emissions and will be needed for decades to come.”