PREMIER Daniel Andrews elected the Challicum Hills Wind Farm near Buangor on Friday as the location to announce a plan to make Victoria the country's leading state in renewable energy.
Mr Andrews praised Ararat Rural City as the state's strongest supporter of wind farm energy and said it was fitting to return to the region as he followed through with a pre-election promise to change wind farm planning laws.
The major change is halving the household veto for a proposed wind turbine development from two kilometres to one from a dwelling.
"I want to see the number of jobs in the wind energy sector grow," Mr Andrews said.
"I think it is fair to say this is the most positive signal that has been sent to the wind energy industry in four very long years.
"This council and this local community are very strongly supportive of the opportunities that come from wind energy.
"There is probably no stronger supporters anywhere in our state and I thank them for that. It is good for the planet and it is good for the economic development as well and that is what these announcements are all about."
The Andrews Government also revealed from April 2 Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne would be the responsible authority on renewable energy permits.
"That means I will make the decision on wind farms applications going forward," Mr Wynne said.
"I think (this announcement) will send a very clear message to people who want to invest in the wind farm industry, that not only are we open for business, but we have a streamlined approach in how we make the decisions.
"We will continue to consult with local government. Our policy will be one that I think will really unlock opportunity, it unlocks jobs in regional Victoria."
Mr Andrews said under the previous state government the wind energy sector was almost completely ended.
"We had the better part of 20 planning applications that had been approved and none of them are in the ground now," he said.
"None have been acted on and that is also the product of uncertainty at the national level (with the Renewable Energy Target) and I urge all Federal parliamentarians to get a deal done.
"We need some certainty around this because you can't ask people to invest when a critical national policy setting is up in the air."
Investor uncertainty caused by a Federal Government dispute over the RET is forcing delays in local wind farm projects at Crowlands, Ararat, Bulgana and Stockyard Hill.
Those projects, with a combined total of 374 turbines, has a potential $1.68 billion investment in the region, including the capability of providing $1.3 million dollars per annum in rates spanning the three municipalities (Ararat, Northern Grampians and Pyrenees Shires), along with $300,000 per annum to community groups, and create 60 direct and 74 indirect ongoing jobs.
Minister for Industry, Lily D'Ambrosio said while the State Government was doing everything it could to attract Victoria's share of renewable energy investment, they need Tony Abbott's support.
"I am very pleased that an Andrews Labor Government will return Victoria again to a national leader in renewable energy," she said.
"What is also important of course, is that we need a Federal Government that cooperates with renewable energy and doesn't block it. The Renewable Energy Target must be resolved."
Ms D'Ambrosio said she personally wrote to the Australian Minister for Energy, Ian Macfarlane urging him for the benefit of investment and jobs growth to settle the dispute over the RET.
Ararat Rural City mayor Paul Hooper agreed, that support must come from all levels of government, from local through to federal.
"This announcement is more about new applications than current, it has no immediate implications for us with the RES (Ararat) wind farm," Cr Hooper said.
"That project is partially reliant on the RET because there is a need to lock down finance. No question that the sooner there is resolution into the RET, that the sooner there is certainty and we'll know about progression."