Madigan, Senator John, Questions Acciona’s Waubra Wind Farm Compliance

Senator John Madigan asks the Minister representing Greg Hunt, the Minister responsible for the Clean Energy Regulator, to answer the following questions concerning the actions of the Clean Energy Regulator with respect to their verification of Acciona’s claims to the Regulator that the Waubra Wind Development is compliant with its planning permit conditions.

Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (14:42): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Senator Cormann. Minister, in light of the fact that on 21 August this year I wrote to the Clean Energy Regulator asking it to suspend the accreditation of the Waubra wind farm for breaches of the Renewable Energy Act and the regulator’s response dated 17 October that stated that it has ‘no reasonable grounds to suspend the Waubra wind farm under section 30E of the act’ and that the regulator ‘has received no evidence that the conditions attached to the planning approvals have been breached’, I ask: has the Clean Energy Regulator exercised its powers under section 125A of the act to obtain any information or documents from the Victorian Department of Planning that would provide him with reasonable grounds to suspend Waubra wind farm?

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia—Minister for Finance) (14:43): I thank Senator Madigan for the question and for giving me some notice of this question shortly before question time. I have been provided with the following advice: firstly, some of the information the senator is seeking—and I understand that this has been the subject of a lengthy correspondence with the Clean Energy Regulator, and also various FOI requests and correspondence with the previous and the current government—is specific to a specific business and it would breach relevant privacy provisions to provide that direct information. However, I will seek to assist the senator by advising him that the Clean Energy Regulator requires all wind farms which are accredited to demonstrate that they have obtained and met conditions of relevant state planning permits. Misrepresentation in this area would be a serious offence and, if the regulator had concerns along those lines, those concerns would be investigated. Deregistering a wind farm would be a very serious step, as it would undermine their financial viability and put them in breach of contract. It is open to the Clean Energy Regulator to commence such a process, but only on the basis of sound evidence, such as action taken by a state planning authority to cancel the planning permit. I am happy to assist the senator further if there is something else that can be provided with a bit more time.

Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (14:45): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In relation to advice from the Clean Energy Regulator that Mr Paul Jarman from the Victorian department of planning recently gave to a Victorian council which inquired about reporting wind farm breaches, what section of the renewable energy legislation requires that an enforcement order be taken out in either a tribunal or a court of law before the Clean Energy Regulator will act on a wind farm breaching its planning permit?

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia—Minister for Finance) (14:45): Technically this is a question about the law; however, in an effort to assist Senator Madigan, I can say that a breach of an enforceable undertaking, I am advised, allows the Clean Energy Regulator to apply to a federal court to order the person to comply or pay the Clean Energy Regulator. This is set out in Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000, at section 154R(1)(c).

Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (14:46): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the availability of information evidencing reasonable grounds to suspend accreditation of the Waubra wind farm, have the accreditation application, the annual returns and the standing notices submitted since 2009 by this wind farm been checked by the Clean Energy Regulator to determine whether they contain misleading information that incurs penalties as per section 125E of the act?

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia—Minister for Finance) (14:47): That is a question seeking very specific information in relation to a specific business. There is not really anything I can add to my answer so far. I am aware that Senator Madigan has written to Minister Hunt, and I am sure that in appropriate time Minister Hunt will respond to Senator Madigan’s letter.

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