SA unveils legislation to streamline hydrogen project approvals

Brandon How

South Australia is set to introduce what it says is world-first legislation to streamline approval processes for hydrogen and renewable energy projects in the state.

The state government released the draft bill for public consultation on Thursday, coinciding with Premier Peter Malinauskas’ speech at the World Hydrogen Summit in the Netherlands.

If the bill is passed later this year, a single regulatory process for developing large-scale hydrogen and renewable energy projects will be instituted across the entirety of the project life cycle.

According to the government, the ‘one window to government legislative framework’ will “facilitate secure land access, social and environmental benefits and put our First Nations people at the centre of the transformation, in line with leading environment, social and governance requirements”.

Consultation on a Hydrogen and Renewable energy issues paper between December 2022 and early February previously sought views on the development of the Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Act.

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas at the World Hydrogen Summit in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Image: Twitter

The new Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Act will also require the creation of a Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Fund which will be partly made up of penalty payments and expiation fees made under the Act.

Purposes of the fund include promoting research into mitigating or environmental damage from authorised operation as well as protecting and preserving native title and Aboriginal heritage.

Some of the provisions of the Act, which the government is seeking feedback on until June 26, include new licensing arrangements across all land types, development of a framework to ensure projects deliver a net environmental benefit, and to ensure there is engagement with First Nations people’s rights and interests.

The license categories are for hydrogen generation, renewable energy feasibility, renewable energy infrastructure, renewable energy research, and a special enterprise license for activities of “major significance” to the South Australian economy.

The special enterprise license is intended to allow “greater security and flexibility of tenure and access to land”, according to the draft bill.

The South Australian government will also undertake analysis of all state-owned land and water sites, establishing a list of Release Areas for renewable energy development.

By 2030, the state government wants 100 per cent of its energy demand to be met from renewable resources.

Premier Malinauskas said South Australia is already a world leader for renewable energy and seeks to streamline investments with the new Act.

“This world-first Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Act will establish an orderly, fit for purpose system to ensure that developments are assisted by a ‘one window to government’ approach,” he said.

“In just over 15 years, our state has transformed its energy source from 1 per cent to more than 70 per cent renewable energy. Now we need to take the next step to increase our renewable share even further.”

There are currently multiple acts in South Australia that cover renewable energy projects, including the Electricity Act 1996, Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000, Landscapes SA Act 2019, Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016, Gas Act 1997 and Harbors and Navigations Act 1993.

The state government is currently evaluating proposals for the development of a hydrogen electrolyser, hydrogen power station, and a hydrogen storage facility through its $593 million Hydrogen Jobs Plan.

The request for proposals received 29 submissions from both local and international firms. The project must be delivered by December 2025.

A hydrogen export hub at Port Bonython is also under development, with a Design and Development advisor tender closed in September 2022. In the state’s 2022 Budget, $30 million was set aside for the development of a Clean Hydrogen Industrial Hub at Port Bonython.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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