Australia’s war on wind farms threatens biggest renewable project

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s hostility to “visually awful” wind farms has sent a chill through the industry and could jeopardize the country’s biggest renewable energy project, a $2 billion-plus wind and solar plant in the country’s north.

In an early sign that a new Federal policy could curtail major renewable projects, the company planning to build the 1,200-megawatt plant said it may struggle to attract financing after the government blocked state support for wind farms.

Conservative premier Abbott has been a vocal critic of wind farms, which he has also described as “ugly” and “noisy”, and has campaigned for coal-fired power.

That stance puts him at odds with countries such as the United States and China, as they overhaul their power industries to meet ambitious environmental targets.

After cutting the country’s Renewable Energy Target by a fifth a month ago, Abbott took the green power industry by surprise by ordering the government’s A$10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to stop investing in wind farms, the country’s No. 2 clean energy source behind hydropower.

The anti-wind farm decree could stop the CEFC from providing early-stage finance for the 1,200-megawatt Kennedy Energy Park in Queensland, making it less attractive for private financiers, said the head of Canberra-based Windlabs Ltd, the company behind the project.

“If they’re not there, it doesn’t mean it can’t get done, but I will tell you it’ll be harder,” Windlab Chief Executive Officer Roger Price told Reuters on the sidelines of a clean energy conference in Sydney.

“Every deal takes a lot of work. Having them support a project would ultimately make other finance (easier to secure). People are happy to invest or commit alongside (an existing investor).”

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