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WA streamlines renewable energy approvals process with new exemption

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By Colin Hay - 
WA renewable energy approvals times process new exemption Western Australia

Western Australia has approved a new environmental protection act exemption that is aimed at significantly slashing renewable energy project approval times.

The state’s Environment Minister Reece Whitby said the act will cut the “green tape” tying up numerous projects in WA.

The new act provides an exemption to allow Crown land to be leased to renewable energy proponents while the proposal is being assessed and is part of a $22.5 million investment in WA’s ‘Green Energy Approvals Initiative’.

$3 billion budget allocation

More than $3 billion was allocated in the most recent State Budget to initiatives that will diversify the economy and help transition WA to a clean energy future.

Minister Whitby said the streamlined approvals process builds on a number of initiatives WA is undertaking to tackle climate change and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

“We have listened to the feedback from proponents and investors and found an innovative approach to ensure these renewable energy projects are able to progress in a timely manner,” he said.

“We are not making any changes to the due diligence or responsibilities of the [Environmental Protection Agency] EPA – or the Minister for Lands through this reform – these changes will simply reduce Government approvals timeframes for projects that can meet their environmental requirements, while preserving the due diligence and responsibilities required by the EPA.”

Green energy ‘superpower’

WA Lands Minister John Carey said the new class exemption builds on a commitment to streamline approvals and cut green tape for the State’s renewable energy and places the state on the path to becoming a global green energy “superpower”.

“Along with harnessing our exceptional renewable energy resources, providing access to Crown land is one of many ways we are facilitating more clean energy production, while creating skilled local jobs for the future.”

“This new streamlined process means Government can provide renewable energy proponents greater confidence to invest here – further highlighting WA’s leading role in a decarbonised future.”

CME welcomes Net Zero funding increase

Elsewhere the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME) has welcomed the state government’s announcement of a modest funding boost to WA’s Investment Attraction Fund (IAF) and Sectoral Emissions Reduction Strategies in the push to achieve the 2030 and 2050 emissions targets.

CME chief executive Rebecca Tomkinson said the injection of $60 million to the IAF and $74 million to the WA Government’s sectoral emissions reduction strategies were positive steps towards industry, government, the community and businesses working collaboratively on mapping out a net zero future.

However, the CME is again calling for action from the WA Government to lay the groundwork and outline a clear plan for this transition.

“I’ve said before that the path to net zero runs through WA. I’d go so far as to say there is no net zero without WA,” Ms Tomkinson said.

“We have the resources, critical minerals and rare earths to meet global demand at scale, but governments must work with industry to ensure the pathways are clear for project development.”

“The $60 million IAF New Energies Industries round is a welcome step to encourage investment in projects such as critical mineral and rare earth processing, renewable energy technologies and emissions capture. However, further investment by the WA Government will be required, most critically to provide certainty of access to low emissions, affordable and reliable energy but also in unlocking further project ready land.”

“If the WA Government can attract investment in the sorts of projects that will see us meet global demand – and at the same time remove red tape, create a more efficient approvals process and clarify regulatory framework for the industry – WA will be well positioned to leverage the incredible opportunities presented by the energy transition.”

Emissions reduction strategy

Ms Tomkinson said the addition of $74 million into the WA Government’s sectoral strategies would hopefully support emissions reduction pathways across the WA economy.

“The industry – and the community in general – wants to see the map. They want to know how the WA Government will navigate the energy transition and what we all need to do to achieve 2030 and 2050 net zero targets,” she said.