The new NSW minister for energy looks set to revive the debate over the National Energy Guarantee, telling a meeting of Sydney’s business community that the NSW Government still supports the policy and is calling on his federal counterparts to stop pitting ideology and populism against science.
In his first major public outing since his appointment in March, NSW energy minister Matt Kean told the CEDA hosted event that the NSW Government will continue to push its Federal counterparts to take measures to support new renewable energy projects and to put in place the policies needed to reduce emissions.
In calling for a new approach to climate policy, Kean criticised both sides of Government, including those within the ranks of his own Liberal party, for their part in making climate policy such a contested space.
“We need a new politics to take on that challenge. The climate wars saw ideology and populism pitted against our scientific traditions. We cannot afford to let these ideological indulgences continue.”
The NSW Government has not set a target for renewable energy and has an aspirational target of reaching zero net emissions by 2050. The state does, however, face looming challenges in its energy sector, including the flagged decommissioning of the aging Liddell Power Station, which will remove 2000MW of available capacity upon its expected closure in 2022.
Kean argued in his speech that energy policy should be set at a national level, rather than forcing the states to go their own way in setting targets for emissions reduction and renewable energy uptake, which has underpinned his stance to push for a revival of the National Energy Guarantee.
Kean listed four key principles necessary for a new framework for climate policy; trust in markets to deliver solutions, streamlining the planning approval process, proactive investment in transmission infrastructure and support for a national policy mechanism.
“We need a national framework that properly integrates climate and energy policy,” Kean told the meeting.
“I’ll be working with Minister Taylor to see how we can align our objectives for delivering better outcomes for NSW consumers”.
“Political instability has increased uncertainty, exacerbated risk, stalled investment and contributed to the problem, rather than help to solve it. The climate wars have not delivered for the people of NSW,” Kean said.
“The NSW government still supports the National Energy Guarantee and will continue to support a national mechanism that integrates climate and energy policy, which provides business with the freedom to innovate.”
The meeting of CEDA members in Sydney was Minister Kean’s first major speech since being anointed as the energy minister following the NSW election in March, and was used as an opportunity to outline his agenda for the energy portfolio.
Kean takes over the portfolio from former minister Don Harwin, who also did not shy away from confronting his Federal Liberal party colleagues through the COAG Energy Council when the Federal Government backed away from its commitments to legislate the emissions reduction component of the National Energy Guarantee.
Kean recognised that a significant transition is underway in the energy sector, with Australia moving away from an ageing coal fleet, to be replaced by lower cost renewable energy and storage.
“No responsible leader can accept the contribution made by science, and then ignore the risk posed by climate change. This is why the NSW Government supports the Paris Target.”
“Over the next 20-years, most remaining coal-fired power stations will close.”
“Right now, the market is telling me that those power stations will be replaced by renewable energy, firmed by gas and emerging storage technologies.”
The NSW Government has undertaken a major reshaping of its environment and energy bureaucracy, with Kean appointing a new department head, in the form former CEO of Infrastructure NSW as secretary of an expanded Department of Planning and Environment.
Following the election, the Berejiklian Government merged the Office of Environment and Heritage, which included the NSW EPA, into the now mega-department.