The Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill has passed both houses of the SA parliament today, despite both the Liberal and Greens parties delaying it on Tuesday.
The Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Act 2023 is the nation's first legislative framework designed to provide a coordinated approach to the burgeoning hydrogen and renewable energy industries.
Energy and Mining Minister Tom Koutsantonis welcomed the passage of the Bill, thanking crossbench member of the legislative councils from SA Best and One Nation who backed the state government's bid to create a "unique and modern legislative framework" for the renewable energy transition.
"Global policy makers will be closely watching what we managed to achieve today," he said.
"The passage of this bill through Parliament marks a significant milestone in the state's energy transition, and in our journey as a leader in the clean energy revolution and the economic opportunities it provides."
While the bill ultimately passed with unanimous Legislative Council support, the government was disappointed the Greens and the Liberal parties joined forces to delay the passage.
Energy and Mining Minister Tom Koutsantonis said there was unprecedented global interest for investing in and developing South Australian hydrogen and renewable energy and it required a fresh legislative framework to maximise opportunities and streamline processes.
He said the act would help unlock the state's pipeline of renewable energy projects, with an estimated capital development investment of approximately $21 billion - which the state government expect to grow.
Among the goals of the act are streamlined regulatory processes for companies in land access, environmental impacts and native title rights.
It will also designate "release areas" of government-owned land deemed most suitable for wind and solar projects.
Mr Koutsantonis said the legislation also ensured extensive community and landholder consultation would be carried out ahead of hydrogen and renewable energy projects to ensure they met community expectations of responsible development.
"I can confidently assure those that sought to stand in the way of this result that this bill will prove to be a blueprint for other jurisdictions looking to harness the economic opportunity of clean, green energy," he said.
"We have a unique opportunity ahead, and no time to waste. The Upper Spencer Gulf is home to some of the world's most prospective wind and solar resources - it could prove the equivalent of finding oil in Saudi Arabia, or striking gold in Victoria."
But pastoralist were in two minds about the act passing today with Yardea Station's Sandy Morris, who believes his property will likely be considered suitable for renewable energy resources, saying the information he had seen on the bill was "a bit conflicting".
"According to the advice we've had and the meetings we've had, we will have an income stream from it," he said.
"But it's going to make running the grazing business quite difficult in some ways, because there's going to be a lot of power lines around and aerial mastering is going to be probably very difficult.
"Especially during the development stage, it would be extremely difficult because of the amount of people and vehicles so just trying to run the place will be a challenge for a few years."
The state government says it will continue to work with stakeholders and rights holders to establish associated regulations.
The bill as we got to see ... would effectively give a right to anybody to enter pastoral land without notice or needing to consult with a pastoral lessee when a license is granted.- Professor Simon Maddocks
Greens spokesperson for energy Robert Simms MLC said it was "disappointing" SA-Best and One Nation had "worked in lockstep with Labor to steamroll their agenda through the Upper House".
"Labor's hydrogen bill provides a pathway for dirty blue hydrogen, something that was not put to the people of SA at the last state election," he said.
"The parliament has a right and a responsibility to scrutinise it.
"While Labor has made much of their bill and hyped up its focus on green hydrogen, I fear there is some gaslighting happening here.
"After all, blue hydrogen is created using the extraction of fossil fuels in the form of methane gas."
He said there were also significant unresolved questions about whether the bill contains sufficient environmental safeguards and protections for Native Title Land.
"Why would the Greens simply ignore these major issues and wave the bill through?," he said.
"The Greens wanted to ensure that this bill won't have adverse consequences for our state, but sadly One Nation and SA-Best have thwarted our efforts to ensure that there was appropriate parliamentary scrutiny."
Primary Producers SA chair Simon Maddocks said PPSA had made a submission about the bill during consultation, and in general supported its objectives.
"But the concerns we raised were in relation to the bill probably providing insufficient balance between the rights of landowners and current lessees and things like pastoral leases, and the rights that the bill was giving to licensee proposals," said.
"We raised a range of concerns that we were hoping might be addressed to make sure that the bill was going to adopt good practice landholder engagement.
"With the legislation passing, obviously, we'll continue to work with the government on regulations that underpin the act to make sure some of these things are clarified."
He said the issue for pastoralists was probably a series of concerns about whether in fact, there was the capacity to support pastoralists to get appropriate advice and to be compensated for any professional advice they might seek in responding to any proponent.
"Secondly, under the Mining Act at the moment, individual pastoralists and lessees can are involved in a negotiation," he said.
"The bill as we got to see and comment on, largely removed that right and ignored and overlooked the rights of pastoral lessees so it would effectively give a right to anybody to enter pastoral land without notice or needing to consult with a pastoral lessee when a license is granted.
"I think there was some serious concerns we raised in relation to pastoralists and ongoing activities on pastoral leases that might be impacted by developments under this legislation."
Professor Maddocks said the act provided very little time for pastoralists to respond.
"Under the mining act for example, proponents are required to give current lessees about 42 days notice of any proposal and the current lessees have three months to respond - under this act, the proponent only had to provide 21 days notice and the landowner or lessee only had 14 days in which to object," he said.
"That's asking a lot if you've also got to try to get professional advice in that tight timeframe and there's no clarity that current landowners or pastoral lessees will be given any compensation or consideration for the costs that might be involved in any of that.
"These are the issues that we raised in our submission in advance the legislation being introduced to the house."
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