The federal government will prioritise Tasmania's next energy link to the mainland, which former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown says the state needs like a hole in the head.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday announced the proposed Marinus Link energy cable between Tasmania and Victoria was one of 15 major projects set to be fast tracked in a move to boost the nation's jobs recovery from the coronavirus crash, with assessment and approval periods dropping from an average of 3.5 years to 21 months.
He estimated the fast tracked projects would create more than 66,000 jobs nationally, and would bring the jobs "to the market" earlier.
He did not make a funding announcement related to the $3.5 billion Marinus Link project.
Also featuring new renewable energy projects, including wind farms and pumped hydro, the Tasmanian energy strategy is expected to create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment in Tasmania, as well as a large new income stream from energy exports.
"Today's formula to deregulate environmentally harmful impacts of major projects shows Prime Minister Morrison as an environmental smasher," Dr Brown said in Hobart.
"For example, the Marinus undersea cable linking Tasmania to the mainland will promote mega wind turbines regardless of Tasmania's needs and have huge impacts on wild and scenic Tasmania, its bird life and other wildlife habitat.
"But PM Morrison's plan is to ignore those impacts and barge ahead regardless. "
Dr Brown and the environmentalist Bob Brown Foundation are particularly opposed to UPC Renewables' big wind farm planned for Robbins Island, at Circular Head, plus associated transmission developments.
Dr Brown said private enterprise should pay for the "jobs sparse" Marinus Link.
" ... Morrison is having the taxpayers fund it while sweeping aside the same taxpayer concerns for the environment," he said.
"Tasmania has more energy than it can use already and needs Marinus like a hole in the head.
"This project already has communities up in arms here, but the Morrison bulldozer is about to roll over every Tasmanian citizen's concern.
"What hope the wedge-tailed eagles and migratory birds headed for extinction?"
UPC believes Marinus Link should be fast tracked as a coronavirus recovery project, arguing it would stimulate Tasmanian renewable energy development and jobs.
"Confirmation from the Prime Minister today that the Marinus Link is one of 15 priority projects nationwide is a massive vote of confidence in the project," chief operating officer David Pollington said.
"Now the challenge before state and federal governments is to provide certainty to renewable energy investors and urgently commit funding to proceed with the Marinus Link and set a target date for it to be operational.
"Committing to build Marinus will unleash a massive wave of renewable energy construction in Tasmania, currently estimated at more than $6.3 billion and more than 15,500 direct and indirect jobs over the life of the project.
"At a time when our economy is looking to recover from COVID-19, a renewable energy construction boom is just what our state needs."
The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said fast tracking of the Marinus Link approvals process was fantastic news.
"Fast-tracking Marinus Link is exactly the sort of bold thinking that will help our state recover from COVID-19," chief operating officer Colleen Reardon said.
"Marinus is a true state-building project and is just what we need to unleash our state's renewable energy future in the post-COVID environment.
"The TCCI has been strongly advocating for this project at all levels of government for a number of years, and it's encouraging to see the project progressing."
Ms Reardon said proceeding with the project was a no-brainer.
" ... the TCCI urges state and federal governments to quickly finalise negotiations about its funding and provide certainty to renewable energy investors looking to invest in our state," she said.
Tasmanian Energy Minister Guy Barnett said: "Today's announcement that Project Marinus has been listed as a national priority project is welcome news and has the objective to bring forward an anticipated $7 billion injection into the Tasmanian economy, along with thousands of jobs."
"Tasmania has what the rest of the country needs as we recover and rebuild from COVID-19: affordable, reliable, clean energy.
"Already, Project Marinus is considered a priority project by Infrastructure Australia.
"Coupled with today's announcement and by working closely with our federal colleagues, the jobs and investment it creates can be delivered sooner."
Mr Barnett said Project Marinus would still undergo extensive environmental assessment and checks, "but this announcement ensures this due diligence can happen far sooner, helping our nation rebuild and recover".
"With Tasmania set to double our already significant renewable energy production thanks to our Marinus Link and Battery of the Nation projects, and renewable hydrogen industry growth plans, we are perfectly placed to supply Australia with the energy reliability and security it needs, while injecting billions into our economy and creating thousands of Tasmanian jobs, many in regional areas.
"We are looking forward to working with the federal government through the joint assessment teams and we are confident it will highlight the benefits of Project Marinus for the entire country."
State-owned TasNetworks, which is driving the Marinus project, said the cable and supporting transmission developments in the North-West would allow energy from a diverse range of sources to be sent to where it was most needed.
Material on its website, prepared before Mr Morrison's announcement, said: "The project is on track to deliver a shovel ready Marinus Link and supporting transmission by the mid-2020s, ready to be in service when required."
"TasNetworks' modelling suggests the optimum timing for the project is from the late 2020s."
Part of the "sell" is that renewable energy - especially renewable energy able to be stored via pumped hydro - will increasingly be needed as the nation transitions from coal-fired generation.
Tasmanian Greens Leader Cassy O'Connor said if Mr Morrison really believed in Marinus Link he would have provided some money.
"Another day, another massive balloon of hot air coming out of the Prime Minister's mouth in Canberra," Ms O'Connor said.
"This is unquestionably a stalking horse for gutting any environmental protections at the national level ..."
Shadow Energy Minister David O'Byrne asked what was being fast tracked.
"There is no development application, so there is nothing to fast track," Mr O'Byrne said.
He also questioned whether a fast track process would mean the project would "end up in endless court cases".
Mr Morrison said the pandemic had caused the greatest economic shock since the Great Depression.
He described the situation as a health and economic crisis.
"We are saving lives and we are saving livelihoods," he said.
"We've managed to better than our peers, and even our hopes."
He said economic recovery was now the main focus of the national cabinet.
"We are now coming back," he said.
Regional Development Australia Tasmania Committee chair Sue Kilpatrick welcomed the announcement of the federal government's commitment to Marinus Link.
"The Prime Minister's announcement reinforces just how important Marinus Link will be to the sustainable growth of the Tasmanian economy" Professor Kilpatrick said.