Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — My question is also for the Minister for Planning. I commend the Bracks government for its ongoing commitment to a sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply for Victoria. Renewable energy, and wind energy in particular, are critical to achieving a sustainable future. I ask the minister to inform the house of what action the government has taken to facilitate the development of wind energy facilities across this state?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) — I welcome the member’s interest in this particular topic, and I know that many members in this chamber should or would be interested in this specific issue. I know that as recently as yesterday afternoon Mr Hall asked questions in relation to wind farms, so he would be very eager to hear my response today, as opposed to some of the other members of the opposition.
Of course we recognise that wind energy is a critical component to the future energy needs of this state. I know that on many occasions my colleague Mr Theophanous, in his former role as Minister for Energy Industries, discussed wind energy in this chamber. I also know that more often than not plenty of wind features in this house when it relates to this debate. We have developed policy and planning guidelines for the development of wind energy facilities in Victoria. That is crucial, because these guidelines assist proponents, authorities and the Victorian community in assessing wind energy proposals — and they ensure a consistent approach. That consistent approach is particularly important, because we need to look at alternative forms of energy.
Whilst I am not the energy minister, in a number of instances I am the authority when it comes to these matters.
Mr Finn — Then why are you reading?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN — I am going to refer to some statistics that Mr Finn will be particularly interested in. I am delighted to advise that to date 11 wind farms have been approved in Victoria, bringing the state’s total capacity to 1358 megawatts of electricity. Four wind farms are currently operational with a generating capacity of 104 megawatts.
Following the recommendation of an independent panel last week, I approved a planning permit for a 64-turbine wind farm at Mount Mercer, which is 30 kilometres south of Ballarat. This farm will be built by West Wind Energy on predominantly cleared farming land. It is expected to generate around 160 megawatts, which is enough energy to power more than — and Mr Finn should listen to this — 73 000 homes. We expect this project alone to save more than 390 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. To simplify that for members on the other side of the chamber, that is in the order of 11.7 million black balloons.
The black balloons are part of a successful campaign which was initiated by my colleague the Minister for Industry and State Development to help the general public understand the context of day-to-day carbon emissions.
Mount Mercer will make a significant contribution to our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but just as importantly as part of the big picture it will deliver other significant benefits to the broader community. It is anticipated that there will be in the order of 120 construction jobs created throughout the course of this project and a number of permanent jobs will be created once these turbines are up and going. This project, like others, will assist the government in achieving its renewable energy target. That target commits energy retailers to buying 10 per cent of their power from renewable sources by 2016, which is estimated to cut 27 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. They are impressive statistics by any measure. Not only that, they will provide a huge economic benefit throughout regional Victoria.
Again, this is a win for the environment, it is a win for jobs and it is also a win for sustainable development into the future in rural and regional Victoria. It will make Victoria a better place to live, work and raise a family.