Offshore wind announcement ‘good news’ for climate and jobs


“By working together as a community, sharing our concerns for the environment to codesign a clean energy future for the region, we have the ability to deliver a positive outcomes for our oceans, our communities and our local economy.”

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The federal government’s official declaration that the Illawarra offshore wind zone, 20 kilometres off the coast of Wollongong in NSW, will go head was welcomed by environmental justice organisation, Friends of the Earth.

Yes2Renewables gathering at Wollongong Harbour in February 2024

Friends of the Earth said the announcement was good news for action on climate change and job creation.

“From Gippsland in Victoria to the Illawarra and Hunter in NSW, offshore wind represents a massive opportunity to take action on climate change while creating thousands of new jobs,” said Pat Simons, Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy spokesperson.

“As we all experience the worsening impacts of climate change from severe floods, storms and fires fuelled by burning fossil fuels, offshore wind has a critical role to play in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and providing a new source of electricity,” Simons said.

With ageing coal fired power stations due to close over coming years, offshore wind represents a significant new source of electricity generation alongside onshore wind and solar power, according to Friends of the Earth.

In February, Friends of the Earth’s Yes2Renewables project joined locals at Wollongong Harbour for a family fun day celebrating renewable energy and climate action, bringing together people who want to see offshore wind go ahead.

“It’s good to see the work of local advocates is paying off, but the work of building the industry is only just beginning.

“With at least four offshore wind zones declared around the country, it’s essential that the needs of communities are front and centre of this important new industry.

“The federal government can build on today’s positive announcement with a plan that delivers community benefits from offshore wind, deep engagement with First Nations, local job creation and strong environmental protections.

“Friends of the Earth will be following the next steps for offshore wind closely and will continue to work with communities to get the most out of the energy transition for people and planet.”

Union backing

The Electrical Trades Union of Australia (ETU) and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) applauded further progress toward the development of Australia’s offshore renewable energy with the announcement the Albanese Government declared an offshore wind zone in the Pacific Ocean off the Illawarra. 

The unions declared the announcement another key step to delivering both energy and job security in a region home to key industrial processes that require careful long-term planning. 

The ETU and MUA said the Government’s commitment to building renewable infrastructure in Australia would support heavy industry with cheaper renewable electricity, maximising local content and workers, and expanding Australian supply chains.

“This is a win for workers, industry and our future,” said ETU National Secretary, Michael Wright. “No nation is better placed than Australia to turbocharge its economy with abundant, cheap emission free electricity.”

MUA Assistant National Secretary, Thomas Mayo, said: “The declaration of this offshore wind zone is another step to building an Australian offshore wind industry that will deliver and sustain many thousands of long-term and rewarding jobs for maritime workers.

“Dockworkers and seafarers are ready to use their skills handling steel and building big offshore oil and gas projects to deliver offshore renewable energy for the Illawarra.”

The zone will be 20 kilometres from the coast and excludes significant environmental areas including the Biologically Important Area for the Little Penguin, the Shelf Rocky Reef Key Ecological Feature and the Southern Right Whale migration and reproduction area.

At the announcement alongside Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, representatives of the ETU and MUA celebrated the next step towards the economic and social opportunities on offer through new renewable energy projects off the Australian coastline.

The government estimates the new Illawarra area will create an estimated 1,740 new jobs during construction and 870 ongoing jobs. 

“We look forward to assembling offshore wind turbines in Port Kembla, using floating foundations made from Port Kembla steel,” Thomas Mayo said. “Many Illawarra seafarers currently have to travel to work in West Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory, and they will be thrilled to bring their skills home and provide energy for their community. We also want to see Port Kembla steel supplying foundations and towers for the huge number of new offshore wind projects in Gippsland.” 

During the feasibility licence stage, developers must undertake detailed environmental assessments and engage in further consultation, including how the project will coexist with shipping, tourism and fishing industries.

Construction can only begin after the feasibility stage is completed and developers have gained subsequent environmental and management plan approvals, as well as demonstrating how projects will benefit Australian industry and jobs.

The unions highlighted how crucial it was that projects announced by Minister Bowen and the Albanese Government were backed with plans to skill up Australian workers.

“We need to maximise the opportunity for local businesses, local manufacturing and local steel and we need this work to be done by Australian workers in good, well-paid, union jobs right across the renewable energy sector,” Michael Wright said.

More positive feedback

Ty Christopher, an engineer and director of the Energy Futures Network at the University of Wollongong, said: “Most people are concerned about our climate and the environment, so the declaration clears the way for independent research into the environmental aspects of offshore wind to proceed.

“By working together as a community, sharing our concerns for the environment to codesign a clean energy future for the region, we have the ability to deliver a positive outcomes for our oceans, our communities and our local economy.”

Associate Professor, Michelle Voyer, marine social scientist and member of the University of Wollongong’s Blue Energy Futures Lab, said the period leading up to the declaration of the Illawarra Offshore Energy Infrastructure Zone had been a difficult time for the region.

“Now we have a declared zone I am confident that we can get started on the things that all sides agree on – independent, rigorous research which is specific to our area and the needs of our community and local marine environment. This declaration creates an opportunity for our community to come together to shape how the next stages of this long process should proceed.”  

Darryl Best, former coal miner and Illawarra resident, said: ‘’Wind farms, installed using best practice environmental impact studies, as part of the energy transition, are vital for the people and businesses of the Illawarra region.

“We have a proud history of being at the forefront of industry and this is the perfect opportunity to ensure clean energy is supplied to Bluescope and other industries, as the country and the world transition away from fossil fuels.

“It also ensures continuing employment for displaced fossil fuel workers and helps our community to thrive.’’

Sophia Walter, Good for the Gong volunteer, said she believed most people in the Illawarra are happy to see the project go ahead so long as it is “done right”.

“We’ll be holding the government to account to protect the environment and deliver on promises for local economic benefits. We all know that more renewable energy is ultimately the best thing for the planet and for our community.”

Coco Venegalia, Campaigns Manager at Surfers for Climate and Illawarra resident said: “Surfers are stoked to see that offshore wind power is being pursued in the Illawarra. We see it as a great opportunity to empower our region to be a leader in clean industry, providing secure employment and skilled job opportunities for the next generation of workers. 

“With more renewable capacity, we can move away from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, which are causing harm to our oceans and planet.   

“Surfers for Climate is working with the government to ensure there is ongoing effective community consultation and environmental assessment, so that Illawarra locals benefit and our oceans are protected.’’

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