THE NSW Nationals might have launched a power play for new coal-fired energy – but a report released this morning argues this is at odds with a potential 20,000 clean energy jobs boom for the regions over the next decade.
Today’s Repowering our Regions report by Climate and Energy Campainger Dr Brad Smith says $14 billion in new regional NSW solar and wind infrastructure – on top of the $11bn already in the pipeline – could materialise if government committed to a 100 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, and put the right policy settings in place.
Dr Smith said five regions in NSW – in particular the Western, New England, and Central West – could be clean-energy superpowers supporting thousands of new jobs and providing drought-proof income for communities and farmers.
In the Western region – where already 29 per cent of homes are solar powered and the Silverton wind farm is set to go online – Dr Smith said total renewables by 2030 could expand the region’s current wind and solar capacity by 17.5 times, bringing 1160 jobs and $8b investment over 13 years.
“In order to unlock some of these solar and wind resources, we need the right policy settings, the right support, and we need to to start planning to upgrade transmissions infrastructure for energy to be moved around the state,” Dr Smith said.
“At first it’s about getting more power into the market to push down prices - then you’d look at storage.”
Dr Smith’s Nature Conservation Council report, however, contrasts with news the NSW Nationals are pressuring Premier Gladys Berejiklian to use Restart NSW funds for a new coal-fired power plant – potentially at the old Liddell site or in Michael Johnsen’s Upper Hunter electorate.
The Australian quoted a senior NSW Nationals source and Mr Johnson as supporting the new coal idea “to increase capacity, increase supply and reduce prices”.
But Dr Smith said the party was “clinging to the past” and that coal-fired power plants cost almost double that of wind and solar plants per unit of energy generated.
He also cited university studies that showed a totally renewable-run NSW would be no less reliable than current energy supply – 70pc coal power, 10pc hydro, 6pc wind and solar, 6 per cent gas and 1pc biomass.
“It’s strange that they’re clinging to the past - and thinking about subsidising new power stations,” Dr Smith said.
“Renewable energy can bring a lot of benefits to the regions.”
Decentralised power plan
The Repowering our Regions analysis highlights four regions with excellent wind and solar resources could supply 70 per cent of the state’s electricity needs through large-scale wind and solar farms, as well as rooftop solar.
Dr Smith said the other 30 per cent would be supplied by rooftop solar in other parts of the state.
He said government could also come to the party by allowing low income earners and renters easier access to rooftop solar, and making a particular effort to help coal communities transition.
In the Central West there are 19 proposed and operational renewable energy projects that would generate 1500MW, more than some of the state’s coal-fired power plants. that region’s potential is 1340 new jobs and $6.4bn in investment.
The report said the South East and Southern Tablelands was already a battery with a number of wind farms around Yass and Goulburn as well as pumped hydro plants - while the Snowy Hydro 2.0 was also in the works. The potential there is 1000 new jobs, and $4.5bn in investment.
Dr Smith said the New England region, meanwhile, was already transitioning from energy importer to exporter with the Moree solar farm up and running in 2016 and eight large-scale wind and solar projects in the pipeline at Inverell, Glenn Innes, Armidale, Narrabri Gunnedah – a total of $1.6bn investment and nearly 800 jobs.
He said the potential for the region was $5.2bn investment and 1160 new jobs by 2030.
Also contrasting with the reported coal power push from the NSW Nationals was a tweet from Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall in support of CWP’s plans for a second storage project in the area.
The Nature Conservation Council said Dr Smith’s forecast distribution of projects across the regions and the types of technologies likely to be deployed was based on estimates by CSIRO and Energy Networks Australia, opportunities identified by TransGrid, and resource estimates by ROAM Consulting and the NSW Department of Industry.