Thursday, 2 September 2021
Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
Today the Morrison government is taking further steps to strengthen our economy, create jobs and opportunities for Australians, ensure the delivery of affordable and reliable power and continue to drive down emissions.
I am pleased to introduce the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill to this House. This bill establishes a regulatory framework for a new Australian industry, building on this government's strong record of supporting renewables projects and critical grid infrastructure.
Specifically, this bill will facilitate and regulate the development of offshore electricity infrastructure in Commonwealth waters, including transmission infrastructure and generation. Australia is an attractive place to invest, with many opportunities to harness and a skilled and talented workforce to deliver important projects. Leading developers have expressed a keen interest in investing in offshore electricity infrastructure projects in Australia, and this bill provides a licensing framework and regulatory certainty for those investments to occur.
Enabling the development of an offshore electricity sector will deliver significant local benefits to all Australians.
Investment in transmission infrastructure will support a more secure and reliable electricity system.
Market competition from new electricity generation capacity will help put further downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices and ultimately lead to lower retail electricity prices as well.
We can take advantage of evolving and emerging technologies to secure cost-effective electricity solutions for Australia.
Thousands of skilled regional jobs can be created, providing both direct benefits and indirect opportunities for regional businesses.
Already, there are a number of projects that stand to benefit from this legislation, representing an economic opportunity for Australia.
This bill will help the implementation of Marinus Link, the proposed 1,500 megawatt (MW) transmission line between Tasmania and Victoria.
Marinus Link will provide the additional interconnection needed to export the electricity generated by the Battery of the Nation hydro projects in Tasmania, to the mainland. In doing so, it will unlock new investment in generation projects, including pumped hydro energy storage. Marinus Link will help deliver a more reliable, affordable energy system, helping keep the lights on and drive prices down.
Passage of this bill will also provide business certainty for other proposals that are under development, such as 'Star of the South', a proposed offshore wind farm off the coast of Gippsland, Victoria, and 'Sun Cable' in our north.
Combined, these three proposals, Marinus Link, Star of the South and Sun Cable, are estimated to be worth over $10 billion and create over 10,000 direct and indirect job opportunities during construction. There are also ongoing employment opportunities for the staff that would be required to operate and maintain the infrastructure. Much of this job creation would occur in our regions.
While these are the most advanced projects, there are at least 10 other commercial-scale projects that have been proposed by developers for construction around Australia.
International experience shows that offshore electricity sectors coexist with other offshore sectors and activities, such as fishing and shipping industries. This bill protects these maritime stakeholders by requiring developers to take into account the impacts that potential projects may have on existing users of the offshore area. Importantly, under the bill, areas will not be available for offshore electricity infrastructure projects if their impacts cannot be appropriately managed and enforcement action can be taken if licence holders interfere with existing users of a declared area.
Environmental approvals will be sought through established processes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This approach secures necessary protections while avoiding the imposition of any additional or duplicative regulatory obligations.
Securing the health and safety of workers and workplaces is paramount in this high risk offshore marine environment. The bill will apply the national model Work Health and Safety Act 2011, with some necessary modifications to ensure that the framework operates appropriately in the ocean.
The bill also requires developers to agree to provide financial security to cover the cost of decommissioning proposed infrastructure, prior to any construction or installation commencing. This financial security will be equal to the cost for government to decommission infrastructure in the licence area. This important feature ensures that taxpayers do not foot the bill for removal of any retired assets in the future.
Supporting the development of large projects and a new offshore industry represents an exciting new opportunity for Australia. I urge my colleagues to support the passage of this bill to enable the development of a new industry that will create jobs, strengthen our economy, and facilitate a more affordable and secure energy system.