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.
Wallerawang, 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.”