Kiama MP Gareth Ward has issued a shocking allegation on the floor of the NSW parliament, but a spokesperson for energy and climate change minister Chris Bowen has said Mr Ward ignored his former party's previous support for offshore wind in the Illawarra.
Late on Tuesday evening, Mr Ward took to the floor of the NSW lower house for a Private Members Statement where he raised questions about the proposed Illawarra offshore wind zone.
Mr Ward raised issues of cost, environmental impacts and the effect of a wind farm zone - were it to eventuate - on shipping and tourism.
However, Mr Ward went further and suggested the extent of the federal government's proposed wind farm zone was a result of commercial influence.
"The proposed zone seems to have come solely on the basis of the request of a business that has expressed an interest in establishing an offshore wind farm," Mr Ward said, referring to offshore wind farm developer BlueFloat's proposal for a wind farm.
"Did the Commonwealth independently make this decision to vary the area under consideration, or was this decision simply predicated on BlueFloat's decision to turn its attention further north?"
BlueFloat is one of a number offshore wind developers that have put forward plans for an offshore wind farm in the Illawarra and conducted preliminary community consultation.
BlueFloat originally proposed a wind farm stretching south to Jervis Bay, but later revised their plans north after pushback from Kiama residents in Mr Ward's electorate.
A spokesperson for federal energy and climate change minister Chris Bowen said Mr Ward was "misinformed" that the government had shaped the zone due to pressure from commercial interests.
"The opportunity for offshore wind was identified in the AEMO Integrated System Plan in 2022, and shortly after highlighted by the former Liberal NSW government as an extension to the Illawarra Renewable Energy Zone," the spokesperson said.
The potential for offshore wind in Australia was explored in depth by the Blue Economy CRC in a report developed in early 2021. This report included discussion of an offshore wind zone located near the Illawarra.
The Australian Energy Market Operator in its Inputs, Assumptions and Scenarios Report, published in July 2021, notes the potential Illawarra offshore wind zone as well as the Illawarra renewable energy zone being prepared by the NSW government, a government Ward was a Minister in until two months prior, when he moved to the cross bench after allegations of child abuse and sex crimes which he has strenuously denied.
Later that year, former Prime Minister Scott Morrison joined with former Energy Minister Angus Taylor to introduce the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure bill in September 2021.
"Offshore generation and transmission can deliver significant benefits to all Australians through a more secure and reliable electricity system, and create thousands of new jobs and business opportunities in regional Australia," Mr Taylor said at the time.
Current energy and climate change minister Chris Bowen announced the Illawarra as one of six possible locations around Australia in August 2022.
A year later, in August 2023, Mr Bowen opened consultation on the proposed wind energy zone off the coast of the Illawarra.
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