The Deputy Premier of NSW, John Barilaro, wants taxpayers to build a new coal fired power station. This is a preposterous idea pushed by a panicked and desperate politician.
In politics, timing is everything and Barilaro’s announcement comes just days after he backed an equally crazy plan to spend $2.5 billion on sports stadiums in Sydney.
By backing Sydney sports stadiums ahead of regional schools, hospitals and roads, Barilaro, as the leader of the Nationals failed his regional constituency.
Hence the announcement that he wanted public money invested in a new coal fired power station. He thinks this will allay voter anger and help him in regional seats.
It comes at a time when the major energy companies have made commercial decisions not to further invest in coal fired generation.
AGL has set out plans for the orderly retirement of its coal burning power stations, and while the existing stations will continue to provide a large share of our state’s energy generation for many years, new generation will overwhelmingly come from clean energy sources, combined with batteries and other forms of energy storage.
But the economic realities underpinning these rational investment decisions are nothing to Barilaro.
It was only a couple of months ago that he was spruiking another madcap plan to have a fleet of nuclear power stations dotted across New South Wales. He was, unsurprisingly, silent about which regional seat would be home to a nuclear waste dump.
Not a single serious voice from the energy industry supported him.
For seven years the Liberals and Nationals have had one energy policy – just privatise it.
Having sold off all the old power stations, Barilaro now wants to build a new one.
This is incoherent and irresponsible policy making. If Barilaro wants to get NSW into the business of owning coal power stations, why did he privatize a string of them?
These privatisations are notorious. The NSW Government sold the Vales Point power station for $1 million. The new owner has valued it at $730 million.
Instead of floating silly fantasies about nuclear and coal, Barilaro should be ensuring NSW’s involvement in the orderly transition to a clean energy future.
On February 10 this year, New South Wales ran out of power. Tomago Aluminium, a major employer in the Hunter with 1,000 staff, had its power cut off for over 3 hours.
This was a warning Barilaro’s Government ignored, but there is so much that the NSW Government should be doing.
I have put forward a plan to use some of the proceeds from the transfer of the Snowy Hydro to the Commonwealth to invest in renewable generation across regional New South Wales.
This is the sort of idea that Barilaro should be supporting. It would create jobs in regional areas and add clean energy to the generation mix.
There should also be a massive effort to install solar on the rooves of government buildings across the state. There are a multitude of opportunities to install rooftop solar on buildings such as schools, TAFEs and hospitals.
Instead of indulging in fantasies about nuclear and coal, Barilaro should be demonstrating the political will to make it happen.
Luke Foley is leader of the NSW Labor Opposition and member for Auburn.