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The Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Act 2023, which aims to regulate and facilitate the generation of hydrogen and renewable energy in certain areas of the state, has passed both houses of the South Australian parliament. 

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, introducing a ‘one window to government’ licencing and regulatory system for the lifecycle of large-scale hydrogen and renewable energy projects in South Australia.

Unprecedented global interest in investing in and developing South Australian hydrogen and renewable energy encouraged the State Government to create a fresh legislative framework to maximise opportunities and streamline processes.

The new Act is expected to help unlock the state’s pipeline of renewable energy projects, with a current estimated capital development investment of approximately $21 billion – which is expected to grow.

The Act streamlines the process for companies wanting to invest in large-scale hydrogen and renewable energy projects in South Australia, bringing issues such as land access, environmental impacts and native title rights into a single regulatory process. 

The Act also introduces the concept of release areas where developers and investors can compete to access some of the world’s best wind and solar resources on government-owned land, ensuring the most appropriate projects are selected that address the social, economic and environmental needs of the region and the state. It also ensures extensive community and landholder consultation is carried out, so that hydrogen and renewable energy projects meet communities’ expectations of responsible development. 

Under the Act:

  • Government owned land and waters where renewable energy projects can be hosted will be identified by the South Australian Government
  • Companies will compete for licences to access government owned land and waters to deliver these projects
  • New, fit for purpose licensing arrangements will be established for projects across all land types, enabling regulation of the whole project life cycle
  • First Nations people’s rights and interests will be considered early and throughout the regulatory processes
  • A framework will ensure that developments are delivered with net environmental benefit
  • Requirements will be put in place to ensure land is rehabilitated and returned to pre-existing conditions
  • Multiple land use provisions will be sought to deliver fair outcomes for landowners, communities and other pre-existing land rights holders.

The State Government has said that it will continue to work with stakeholders and rights holders to establish associated regulations for the Act and to identify the release areas for competitive tender.

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