The NSW government has released the first stage of its long-flagged net zero climate change strategy, that it hopes will kick start $11.6 billion in private investment in the path to zero emissions by 2030 with the launch of two additional Renewable Energy Zones.
The strategy will lock in the Berejeklian government’s commitment to an interim emissions target of reducing emissions by 35 per cent by 2030 based on 2005 levels, setting Australia’s largest state on a path to reduce emissions beyond federal targets.
The target has been set as part of the NSW government’s commitment to reaching zero net emissions by 2050.
The NSW energy minister, Matt Kean, has often found himself at odds with this federal Liberal party colleagues, having set a more ambitious goal for emissions reductions and has openly embraced the development of clean energy technologies as key to driving new investment in energy infrastructure in the state.
“Our actions are firmly grounded in science and economics, not ideology, to give our workers and businesses to best opportunity to thrive in a low-carbon world,” NSW energy minister Matt Kean said.
Under the plan, the NSW government will tap into its existing Climate Change Fund to allocate $450 million to the creation of an Emissions Intensity Reduction Program, which will support businesses to replace equipment with lower emissions alternatives. This could include fuel switching, carbon capture or energy efficiency measures.
The NSW government secured a commitment from the Morrison government, under a bilateral deal struck between the two governments, that will see an additional $450 million from the Climate Solutions Fund directed into the newEmissions Intensity Reduction Program.
“This Plan recognises that, in parts of our economy, low emissions technologies are becoming a commercially viable alternative to the traditional ways of doing things. Scaling up those technologies will play a critical role in getting to net zero. But it also recognises that more work needs to be done to get us to our 2050 goal,” the plan says.
The strategy outlines four core priorities for the NSW government; to drive uptake of emissions reduction technologies, empower consumers and businesses to chose sustainable products, investment in new emissions reduction innovations, and to place the NSW government as a leading example.
The plan has reiterated the NSW government’s commitment two an additional two Renewable Energy Zones, in the South West and New England regions of the state.
The NSW government has previously unveiled plans for up to 3,000MW of additional clean energy capacity in a pilot Renewable Energy Zone centred around the regional township of Dubbo.
Each zone will potentially support several thousand megawatts of wind, solar and storage projects, along with coordinated investments in transmission network infrastructure.
The South West Renewable Energy Zone will be based around the regional township of Hay, and has the potential to attract as much as 4,950MW of additional generation capacity.
The New England Renewable Energy Zone, centred around the town of Armidale, that the NSW government also expects could support an additional 5,500MW of new generation capacity, building upon the strong presence of wind generation that has already been established in the region.
Across the three zones, the NSW government sees the potential for up to 17,700MW of new zero emissions electricity generation capacity, stimulating up to $20 billion in private sector investment and sustaining up to 2,000 long-term construction jobs, much of which would be based in regional areas.
The NSW government expects the plan will unlock more than $11 billion in private finance over the next ten years, in addition to $2 billion committed by the NSW and Federal governments, along with up to 2,400 jobs. The NSW government is hoping that more than two-thirds of these jobs will be created in regional areas.
“Almost two-thirds of the private investment under the plan will go to regional and rural NSW, creating job opportunities and diversifying local economies that are doing it tough after the drought and devastating bushfire season,” Kean added.
“Global markets are rapidly changing in response to climate change, with many of the world’s biggest economies and companies committed to reach net zero emissions by 2050. NSW already leads the nation with its economic and investment plans and from today, NSW will lead the nation with its Net Zero Plan.“
Included in the plan is the establishment of a new Coal Innovation Program, which will be a priority for around $1 billion funding committed by the Morrison government, secured under a bilateral deal with the NSW state government, that will be directed towards reducing emissions in the coal mining sector. The program will support projects that can capture and reuse methane emissions released during coal mining processes, and the commercialisation of new technologies.
The broad reaching plan also outlines support to be provided by the NSW government to reduce emissions in the agricultural, buildings, industrial, waste and resources sectors.
The release of the strategy was welcomed by Greenpeace Australia, which said it was important that was crucial states governments step up to fill the policy gap left by the Morrison government.
“Taking steps to reduce emissions is good news for the economy and health, although New South Wales needs to double its ambition to play its part in limiting global warming to close to 1.5 degrees,” Greenpeace spokesperson Jonathan Moylan said.
“Taking stronger action like accelerating the shift to clean and affordable renewable energy to address the causes of climate change will lead to more jobs, cleaner air and less preventable disease. It’s good to see state governments stepping in to fill the climate void left by the Morrison government.
The plan also won the support of the Green Building Council of Australia, particularly for its direct inclusion of emissions reduction measures in the building and infrastructure sectors.
“It is a positive, forward looking plan that brings businesses and consumers on the net-zero journey by seeking to capture the jobs and investment opportunities ahead,” GBCA CEO Davina Rooney said.
“An explicit focus on buildings reflects the considerable opportunity highlighted through this sector: to take advantage of existing technologies while increasing business productivity and driving down energy costs for households.”
The first stage of the NSW government’s plan also includes financial initiatives to support the capture and use of methane, and to reduce emissions from the extraction of coal and gas in the state and will include measures to support the uptake of electric vehicles.
The plan also brings together a number of previously announced commitments from the NSW government, including a plan to transition the entirety of Sydney’s bus fleet to electric models and a commitment to deploy solar power and battery storage systems across most government run schools.