News | 15th Mar, 2011

Protest over new wind farm rules

Thursday, 29 September 2011
9 News

About 100 people have rallied in Melbourne to oppose the state government's changes to wind farm rules and a reduction in the solar power subsidy.

The government is set to change planning rules to give residents the right to veto wind turbines from being built within 2km of their homes.

Turbines will be banned in areas such as the Macedon Ranges, Yarra Valley and on the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas, and within 5km of the Great Ocean Road and the Bass Coast.

About 21 regional centres will also become wind turbine no-go zones.

Environmental groups and manufacturing workers opposed to the wind farm policy protested against the changes outside Parliament House on Thursday. Other rallies are planned for Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat.

Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union state secretary Steve Dargavel said the Victorian government was squandering an opportunity to boost blue collar jobs in the renewable energy industry.

"There is no industry that can lift poorer, working class people up through skills than the manufacturing industry," he told the crowd.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy's spokeswoman said there were still permits for 1300 turbines to be built.

"The vast majority of the state is still open for wind farm development and we have just given communities and councils back their right to have a say," she said.

Environment Victoria campaign director Mark Wakeham has criticised the government's move to reduce the subsidy people receive for feeding solar power back into the grid from 60 cents per kilowatt hour to 25 cents.

He said it had been a very successful scheme and had widespread take-up, particularly in economically depressed areas.

"They're a mistake from an environmental perspective, they're a mistake from a business perspective and jobs perspective and they're a terrible political mistake."

About 50,0000 people who already participate in the feed-in tariff scheme won't be affected by the change as the lower rate does not come into effect next year.

People who have paid a deposit for a solar panel system also are not affected, and those who are yet to submit paperwork must do so by Friday to receive the higher rate.

Some solar companies have indicated they would abandon plans to invest in Victoria if the rate was less than 40 cents.

Energy Minister Michael O'Brien has said under the 25-cent rate participants would recover the cost of their solar power systems within about 10 years.

He said the 25 cent rate was the second most generous feed-in tariff in Australia, behind Queensland.