Published by The Geelong Advertiser.

Wind energy is one of the cheapest and cleanest sources of electricity around. It creates skilled jobs in manufacturing and construction, reduces our carbon emissions and keeps a lid on energy price rises. Yet in Victoria, some politicians are prepared to ignore the facts and blow hot air on the issue.

The member for South Barwon, Liberal MP Andrew Katos, is no exception (‘Conservation group fans environment debate’, August 14).

Last year the Coalition government introduced anti-wind farm planning laws. The planning amendments—known as the innocuous-sounding VC82—effectively ban wind farms from operating in large swathes of the state. They establish arbitrary ‘no-go zones’ and allow just one objector to stop any wind turbine within 2km.

What’s the reason for these changes? According to the member for South Barwon, it’s to protect “tourist areas” and householders from “sonic disturbance and noise.” While this explanation appears reasonable enough on face value, the member’s claims are not supported by evidence.

Let’s take a closer look at Mr Katos’ claims.

The government introduced the planning amendments without public consultation, an expert review, or transparent economic assessment of the potential impact of wind farms may have on tourism. If they had conducted the basic research needed to rationalise such a policy, they would have found wind farms have no adverse impacts on tourism. If you travel further west along the coast, there has been no discernable decline in the tourism sector in the Portland region since several wind farm projects have come online.

When it comes to the supposed health impacts of wind turbines it’s a case of much ado about nothing. More than 17 peer reviewed studies have shown turbines do not affect health—that of humans, animals or even earthworms (as suggested by some anti-wind energy ideologues). Australia’s authority on public health research, the National Health and Medical Research Council, says (2010)  ‘There is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects.’ Once again, the government is caught on the wrong side of the debate.

It’s time Coalition politicians accept wind energy has a clean bill of health and move on.

The real ‘disturbances’ have been caused by the Baillieu government. To date, their anti-wind farm planning laws have cost Victoria around $887 million in lost or stalled investment, 650 direct jobs lost or stalled in construction, 54 on-going jobs in management of wind farms, and 1408 indirectly associated (flow-on) jobs.

The state government’s policy is economically irresponsible considering Victoria’s economy is slowing.

Then there’s the urgent challenge of climate change. VC-82 has stalled 408 megawatts of clean renewable energy supply coming online which would have saved up to 1.6 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year. This is the equivalent to taking around 465,000 passenger cars off the road each and every year.

In August, members of the Geelong Sustainability Group, the Surf Coast Energy Group, and Friends of the Earth kicked off a local campaign calling on MP Andrew Katos to stand up for sensible wind energy planning laws.

These community members think it’s about time a Liberal member of parliament had the courage to stand up for common sense and make the case for repealing VC-82 in the partyroom. 

The repeal of VC-82 will remove the major roadblock facing community-owned and utility-scale wind energy projects.

Leigh Ewbank is Friends of the Earth’s Yes 2 Renewables spokesperson.

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