February 3, 2024

Dodgy developers to face crackdown as government tries to woo farmers on renewables

By Mike Foley
February 3, 2024 — 9.30am
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A star rating system will be introduced for companies building wind and solar farms on agricultural land as the federal government cracks down on dodgy developers, winning cautious support from farmers despite the federal opposition campaign to halt clean energy projects.

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen’s target to more than double the share of renewables to 82 per cent of the electricity grid by 2030 is crucial to the Albanese government’s goal to cut emissions 43 per cent by the end of the decade and its pledge to slash $275 from household energy bills by next year.

Sheep producer Charlie Prell says wind turbines drought-proofed his Goulburn property.Credit: Olivia Parsonson

But despite a growing appetite from clean energy investors, the renewables’ rollout has slowed to the point that the electricity grid operator is warning key milestones will be missed unless project development speeds up. A critical factor in the slowdown has been landholder opposition to thousands of kilometres of transmission lines needed to link far-flung wind and solar farms to population centres.

Bowen on Friday committed to a series of recommendations from Andrew Dyer, the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner, to improve protections and consultation for land access deals between companies seeking to build wind and solar farms and thousands of kilometres of transmission lines on their land.


“This report signals to regional and rural communities that we are determined to improve developer engagement to provide better information about an individual’s rights, involve communities earlier and more effectively, and properly handle complaints,” he said.

Bowen stressed the need for co-operation between federal, state and local governments.

This includes a star rating system for project developers to weed out unreliable or incompetent project developers and reward those who deal honestly with the community, respond to complaints, meet project deadlines and stick to their plans.

“Poor engagement practices experienced by landholders and community members have led to a material distrust of project developers and, particularly, developers of new, long-distance transmission projects,” the Dyer report said.


National Farmers Federation president David Jochinke welcomed Bowen’s commitment to the reforms but said even more protections, like blocking companies that don’t meet high standards, are needed so “developers do not continue to run roughshod over communities and individual landholders”.

Landowners can earn tens of thousands of dollars a year under lease deals with renewables companies.

Farmers for Climate Action chief executive Natalie Collard said some developers had “failed badly” in their dealings with rural communities and urged the government to impose tougher regulations.

“With wind energy companies now offering more than $40,000 per turbine per year and solar companies offering around $1500 per hectare per year, and farmers often able to continue to farm sheep under both, farmers stand to gain so much from the energy shift,” Collard said.

Goulburn sheep producer Charlie Prell has wind turbines on his property, which he said “drought proofed” the farm’s operation.


“Now the farm has substantial, bankable income locked in every year whether it rains or not,” Prell said.

The federal opposition is calling for the government to halt the rollout of new energy transmission lines amid a farmer backlash over land access.

Opposition climate change and energy spokesman Ted O’Brien said the government was prioritising its climate targets above community rights.

“With Labor’s renewables plan running at half pace, Chris Bowen will keep steamrolling regional communities,” O’Brien said.

The Coalition wants nuclear power to be added to the nation’s energy mix, which it argues could reduce the need for renewable construction.

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Mike Foley is the climate and energy correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.Connect via email.


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