Proposed Gippsland offshore wind farm — and the potential of citizen energy

Kim Shore writes about options for Australia’s first offshore wind farm. Australia’s first offshore wind farm could turn wind into money for Gippsland residents and create energy citizens. After being hammered by job losses after the closure of Hazelwood, the prospect of a new clean energy future in the region could create new forms of income, jobs and clean air. That’s a win, win, win. The project could go one of a few different ways: it could be traditionally funded by investment funds and banks, and designed by international engineering firms. Or the deal could be designed so large streams of income flow to local investors and employees. The latter is possible. And now is the time to start the conversation before deals are done. The project proponent, Offshore Energy, could initiate a local participation agreement — meaning a proportion of the wind farm would have to be locally owned. This would deliver a stream of income to residents, generate local economic activity and greatly increase social acceptance of our clean energy transition. In Denmark and Germany, countries that lead the world in wind turbine technology and energy production, this is the norm. Enova Energy, a new energy retailer in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales has a mandated local ownership structure. Enova Energy had no trouble securing local capital and now has large amounts of support for its business model in the local region where it operates. That makes good business sense. Offshore Energy could also initiate and agree to a local participation agreement, e.g.an agreement that requires employment of local tradesmen and women in the construction and maintenance of the wind farm. This could create significant numbers of local jobs and would support local industries. A wind company in the US ‘coal state’ of Wyoming is training unemployed coal workers as wind technicians, as reported in the New York Times. Responsible business can lead a just transition where justice and clean jobs align. More people working in renewables means more support for renewables and greater awareness about the link between renewables, health and a safe climate for all. Offshore wind farm pic by Vattenfall  
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