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Greens say 100% renewables in NSW ‘possible, affordable, essential’

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The NSW Greens’ plan to transition the state to 100 per cent renewable energy was formally introduced to parliament on Thursday, with the tabling of the party’s draft legislation outlining how this could be achieved, both technically and financially, by as early as 2030.

The Transforming NSW Energy Sector (Towards 100% Renewables) Bill was introduced to the NSW Legislative Council on Thursday morning by Greens MP John Kaye, outlining the party’s “possible and affordable” plan to phase out all fossil fuel power stations by 2030 by increasing public and private investment in key renewable technologies, like solar thermal.

The Bill would also provide for the creation of an expert panel, assigned with the task of determining the most cost effective and jobs-rich approach to increasing the state’s renewables mix, as well as the best mix of technologies and energy efficiency measures to replace fossil fuel generation.

According to Kaye’s website, the panel’s first order of business would be to orchestrate the closure of a 500MW generating unit at the coal-fired Wallerawang Power Station in NSW’s Central Tablelands.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 12.14.31 PMWallerawang, which was bought only recently from the NSW government by EnergyAustralia, has already fallen victim the changing dynamics of Australia’s National Electricity Market; mothballed since April this year, after electricity generation at the facility’s remaining unit was suspended. That unit, number eight, has been placed on a care and maintenance basis to return to service should demand increase.

“Mandating an initial 500MW of renewable energy generation would create confidence in the renewable energy sector and pave the way for additional investment,” the Greens plan says.

Speaking in parliament this morning, Kaye encouraged members to look beyond the plan’s obvious environmental implications, and recognise that the legislation was the best thing for the state’s economic future.

“Everything we do in this bill will leave NSW stronger, will leave NSW wealthier… with more jobs, …(and) with an economy that is more resilient, more robust, and less dependent” on fossil fuels, Kaye said.

“Even if for some bizarre reason members don’t believe in the overwhelming consensus of science on climate change,” he said, they would still have to admit that “this legislation is in the best interests of the state.”

As noted on Kaye’s website, one of the key projected benefits of the Greens’ proposal is that the installation, operation and manufacturing of renewable energy technologies would bring massive economic and employment gains to NSW.

According to the draft Bill, a 100 per cent renewable energy sector would create up to 73,800 indirect and direct jobs – compared to the less than 1,800 people currently employed in NSW coal-fired power stations and less than 4,000 coal miners supplying their fuel.

“Under the Greens Transforming NSW Energy Sector (Towards 100 percent Renewables) Bill 2013, all workers employed in fossil fuel power stations would be guaranteed comparable positions in the skills-diverse renewable energy industry,” Kaye said of the plan on his website.

But Kaye and his party are, of course, not oblivious to the hurdles they face in getting such massive legislative changes to the state’s power network over the line.

“Yes it will annoy the fossil fuel industry, and yes it lays out a difficult path for NSW,” Kaye conceded in parliament on Thursday. But, he added, “this is the conversation that we have to have if we are to build a state that confronts the challenges of the 21st Century.”

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  • Ken Fabian

    Good on Kaye and The Greens. However it’s deeply unfortunate that renewable energy and emissions reduction proposals like this only seem to originate from The Greens and not from the LNP and Labor who straddle the mainstream centre.

    It’s never been a green fringe issue, except by virtue of the mainstream centre seeking to frame so – framed so, its seems to me, in order to dodge the responsibility to act that acceptance of it’s importance demands of responsible representatives. If they are convinced then they need to act with conviction. Choosing to be unconvinced and justifying willful ignorance as a “right” to believe what they choose, is a simple and effective way to avoid all than fuss and bother of remaking the making of energy responsibly.

  • Farmer Dave

    I also congratulate John Kaye on this initiative. We need our politicians to do the hard work of developing detailed policy proposals such as this. It’s also really encouraging to see John using economic arguments for his plan, because that is where he has the chance to win the argument.

    The article does not say if he is extending his economic argument to focus on the benefits for regional economies, but that is another area of strong argument for such a plan. I would think that the further he travels from Sydney the easier it should be for him to sell this plan. Because renewable energy is distributed, a 100% renewables system will also be distributed and will require local initiatives all over NSW, bringing local economic benefits.

    Contrast those local benefits with what happens when a regional town is added to the grid. If the community had a small diesel powered power station before being addd to the grid, it would need at least one local employee to run, but the bulk of the cost – the cost of the diesel – would flow out of the local economy. The grid extension to the town would mostly be done by skilled linesmen and other power workers who would live in the town for a short time until all the new infrastructure was installed and commissioned, and would then move on – and the person running the diesel power station would lose his job. The money for the electricity would still flow out of the community. A solar thermal with storage and biomass backup plant for the town would employ more people than the former diesel plant and local farmers would receive income from supplying the biomass. Much more of the money spent on electricity by the people in the town would stay in the town, and that is a vital improvement.

  • Radguy1

    As this article puts it, there will need to be 12 times as many people working in the renewable sector compared to those making electricity from coal. This is a bad way to frame the argument because it could be comparing apples and oranges. My uncertainty may be resolved with further reading, but on the surface, it seems an unhelpful comparison. What is needed is a comparison of the whole electricity sector. Economic “rationalists” may see this as an awful lot of effort for the same ends.

    All things considered, I do support making the switch, but it’s not me that needs to be convinced. More detail please.