NSW 'at bottom of pack' for renewable energy

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Broadcast August 30, 2015 - Brigid Glanville, State Political Reporter

Screen_Shot_2015-09-11_at_3.26.07_pm.pngThe New South Wales Greens argue that industry is moving into renewable energy at a much faster rate than the State Government.

"In wind alone there are over $10 billion worth of investment projects ready to go," Greens MP Jamie Parker said.

"But the Government is holding that investment back by having guidelines, particularly around wind farms that are working against installing wind farms in NSW."

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It may be known as the premier state, but New South Wales is a clear under-achiever when it comes to renewable energy.

NSW has the highest level of greenhouse gas emissions in the country and does not have a renewable energy target.

In 2014 the renewable industry body, Clean Energy Council, listed New South Wales at the bottom of the states for renewable energy production.

Only 6 per cent of its electricity is from wind, solar and water — compared with Tasmania, which uses 95 per cent renewables.

"New South Wales is at the bottom of the pack of the Australian states when it comes to renewable energy," Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said.

"It's behind the pack in terms of generating renewable energy and the amount of rooftop solar on people's roofs."

New South Wales and the two territories remain the only jurisdictions where Solar PV panel penetration is under 10 per cent.

In South Australia, take up is almost 25 per cent.

From world leader to laggard

New South Wales used to be ahead of the pack when it came to renewable energy.

In 2003, the state led the world by introducing the first mandatory greenhouse gas trading scheme — the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Scheme.

After operating for nearly a decade, the trading scheme was closed in 2012 when the national Carbon Pricing Mechanism commenced operation.

NSW now does not have a renewable energy target, and Energy Minister Anthony Roberts does not think it is necessary.

"We don't need a renewable energy target, we are committed with almost $13 billion worth of renewable projects and we are attracting more," he said.

But Ms McKenzie has disputed this, saying NSW has huge opportunities for more investment in the industry.

"Australia is the sunniest country in the world and one of the windiest," she said.

"It has enough renewable energy resources to power the country 500 times over."

Clean energy penetration by state

  • Tasmania 95%
  • South Australia 40%
  • Western Australia 13%
  • Victoria 10%
  • Queensland 7%
  • NSW 6%
Source: Clean Energy Council, Clean Energy Australia Report 2014

Solar plant generates energy, jobs

There are a number of new renewable energy projects currently under way in New South Wales.

The Nyngan Solar Plant is a $290 million joint venture between the Commonwealth, AGL and the NSW Government.

At 102 megawatts, the plant is the largest solar installation in Australia — producing enough electricity to power 33,000 homes.

The project created 250 jobs at the peak of construction, and AGL predicts it has seen a monthly spend of between $350,000 and $500,000 in local communities on indirect costs including accommodation, food, petrol and supplies.

AGL is also installing another 53-megawatt solar plant at Broken Hill.

"We believe that renewables will be part of the future matrix," AGL's CEO and managing director Andy Vesey said.

"We have a view that we're moving forward into a carbon-constrained economy, and that's why we put forward our own greenhouse gas policy."

That policy will see AGL close all its existing coal-fired power stations by 2050.

"There is a consensus building, and it doesn't have to be a scientific consensus it has to be a political consensus," Mr Vesey said.

"If you see the major players, the US and China, making a commitment, the rest of the world will have to go along at some level."

The New South Wales Greens argue that industry is moving into renewable energy at a much faster rate than the State Government.

"In wind alone there are over $10 billion worth of investment projects ready to go," Greens MP Jamie Parker said.

"But the Government is holding that investment back by having guidelines, particularly around wind farms that are working against installing wind farms in NSW."

The State Government insists it is at the cutting edge of renewable energy.

"We've got about $5 billion in approved projects and $7 billion in planned projects," Mr Roberts said.


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