NSW energy minister Matt Kean believes it would be “negligent” to miss the economic opportunities that would be created through embracing renewable energy, telling those with vested interests in the fossil fuel sector to get ready to “enjoy their Kodak moment.”
Speaking at the National Smart Energy Summit in Sydney, Kean compared those who have chosen to oppose the transition to renewable energy and defend investments in the fossil fuel sector to that of Kodak, the film photography company that infamously end in bankruptcy, after it failed to prepare for the emergence of digital cameras.
“We cannot allow ideology and politics to get in the way of our clear path to economic prosperity, let alone the health of our planet to future generations of Australians,” Kean said.
“To those with vested interest and ideologues, that want to stand in the way of this transition. I say, enjoy your Kodak moment, because the energy iPhone is on its way.”
Kean told the conference that many economic sectors, including manufacturing, are set to be transformed by the emergence of low-cost renewable energy and that it was crucial that NSW seizes this opportunity.
“Taking action to reduce our emissions today is not about a cost that we’re morally obliged to pay. It’s about taking an economic opportunity that we would be negligent to miss,” Kean said.
“We are already seeing mums and dads across the country installing solar panels on their roofs, not because it’s good for the environment, which it is, but because it saves money on their bills.”
“It makes economic sense, but the opportunities that renewables provides households extends to every part of our economy, in how we fuel our cars, in how we manufacture steel. In how we produce cement, in how we power our ships that are the basis of trade all around the world. All of that’s going to change because renewables offer nearly no-cost energy,” Kean added.
Last month, the NSW government unveiled a new strategy for the electricity sector in the state, which included plans to establish Australia’s first coordinated renewable energy zone in central NSW and an expanded energy security target to drive investment in energy efficiency measures.
NSW plans to establish a 3,000MW renewable energy zone centred around Dubbo in the state’s central-west region, ensuring that the necessary enabling infrastructure including transmissions network infrastructure is built.
Kean told the summit that there is a huge natural advantage for Australia in the shift to renewable energy, particularly due to a natural abundance of solar resources. Kean pointed to the strong commitments to renewables being made by European countries that do not enjoy such ready access to solar.
“The north of the Netherlands has been a major producer of gas for Europe, but recently they have decided to stop gas production because of the earthquakes associated with extraction. They have decided to use their activities and the transition and use their expertise and transition to hydro.”
“They intend to build more than 100 gigawatts of renewables over the next two decades to help them get there. We are far better placed than the Netherlands to be an energy superpower. We have the land, the wind, the solar, as well as the supply lines, expertise and infrastructure,” Kean added.
On Monday, the Australian Energy Market Commission released projections that showed NSW electricity prices falling by as much as 8.3% by 2021/22, driven primarily by increased uptake of renewables, including almost 1,200MW of large-scale solar.
Kean said he hopes the NSW’s electricity strategy will be able to deliver further savings for energy users, as well as supporting investment and jobs creation in the state.
“It’s a roadmap of how the government will work with the private sector, energy market institutions, households and businesses to secure a sustainable electricity future for our state here in New South Wales,” Kean told the summit.
“It will drive over $8 billion in private sector investment and support over 1,200 new jobs, mostly in rural and regional New South Wales.”
“It will also have the added benefit of driving down household electricity bills by on average $40 per annum.”
The NSW energy minister has worked to push an ambitious transition to renewable energy technologies, particularly in light of the looming closure of the Liddell power station in the Hunter region.
The NSW Liberal government initially sought to set itself apart of from the policies of its federal counterparts but has also been able to benefit from a shift by federal energy minister Angus Taylor to deal with State governments on a one-on-one basis, rather than trying to coordinate actions through the COAG energy council.
In October, the federal government announced that it would provide financial backing to parts of NSW’s transmission infrastructure plans, including the establishment of a new network interconnector between NSW and Queensland.