The Australian Government is balancing the country's transition to renewable energy with its responsibility to protect the environment. New and expanding renewable energy developments may have an impact on animals, plants, habitats and places. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) promotes ecologically sustainable development. It also gives us a robust process to conserve and protect Australia's environment, Commonwealth Heritage places and World Heritage properties.
Approvals under the EPBC Act
It's our role to assess the environmental impacts of any action that could impact protected matters.
The EPBC Act gives us a robust referral and assessment process for environmental approvals. We follow this process to assess the impact of proposed actions, such as building an onshore wind farm.
If your project will or might significantly impact on protected matters, submit a referral to us. Some projects may be assessed by your state or territory under a bilateral agreement.
Conditions may be attached to an approval to manage impacts to one or more protected matters. Conditions can include requirements to avoid, mitigate and monitor the impacts. As a last resort, they may require offsetting any adverse residual impacts.
We publish decisions on assessed projects on the EPBC Act Public Portal.
Penalties for non-compliance
We also monitor compliance with the EPBC Act and enforce the conditions of an approval. Learn more about compliance and enforcement.
Renewable energy projects
Across Australia, there's a big push towards renewable energy generation. Most states and territories have set ambitious targets for the next 20 years. ACT and Tasmania already source all their energy from renewable sources.
We're assessing the environmental impacts of many projects. Future assessments may cover a range of renewable energy projects, including:
- renewable energy generation
- wind farms (offshore and onshore)
- solar farms
- combined solar and wind farms
- pumped hydropower
- green hydrogen plants
- infrastructure associated with renewable energy
- electricity transmission lines
- energy product pipelines
- battery energy storage facilities.
To learn how to refer a project to us for assessment under the EPBC Act, follow our Referrals and assessments guide.
Licensing and approvals for offshore projects
Offshore renewable energy projects within the Commonwealth marine area that are assessed under the EPBC Act also need licensing under the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 (OEI Act).
Three key entities are responsible for administering the OEI Act framework.
The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) – Clean Technology Branch:
- identifies areas for future licensing
- advises the Minister for Climate Change and Energy on Declarations under the OEI Act.
The Offshore Infrastructure Registrar:
- assesses licence applications
- advises the Minister for Climate Change and Energy on licence-related decisions
- administers licences once granted and maintains a register of licences.
Staff from the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA) help the Registrar.
The Offshore Infrastructure Regulator:
- assesses and approves activities under OEI Act licences
- monitors and enforces compliance against OEI Act requirements.
Learn more about regulation of offshore renewable energy projects.
Protecting Australian marine and national parks
Certain activities planned within Commonwealth parks, reserves and marine areas need approval from the Director of National Parks. Approvals are authorised under the EPBC Act or the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 (EPBC Regulations).
Find out about permits and licences for activities in:
Also consult the Director of National Parks for planned activities outside of these areas that could affect:
- natural, cultural and heritage values.
Guidance for new or expanding projects
We've developed policies and advice to help with assessing the environmental impacts of renewable energy projects.
- Significant Impact Guidelines 1.1 - Matters of National Environmental Significance - 2013
- Offshore renewables environmental approvals - OIR- 2022
- Impacts on birds of offshore wind farms - 2022
- EPBC Act Policy Statement 2.34 - Wind farm industry - 2009
See all our EPBC Act data and publications.
Get in touch
For questions about the environmental assessment process under the EPBC Act, contact us by either:
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: 1800 423 135 between 9 am and 5 pm Canberra time.