NSW Labor has released a renewable energy-focused environment and energy policy, promising a fair price for solar and an emphasis on decentralised generation.
The policy document, released on Tuesday, outlines around 10 major policy points, including an undertaking to decommission old and obsolete coal-fired generators and remove planning restrictions against wind farms, and require government agencies to buy renewable energy.
The first order of business, it says would be to combine the climate change and energy ministries into one.
“Addressing the challenges of climate change is inextricably bound up with ways we use energy,” shadow minister Adam Searle told RenewEconomy in an interview. “This is a deliberate policy choice to address that issue.”
The policy supports the current national renewable energy target, but NSW Labor says it would also investigate “reverse auctions”, as have been used in the ACT and also canvassed by the new Labor government in Queensland.
As mentioned, there is a key focus on rooftop solar and decentralized energy, with the overarching goal of stopping households from being “ripped off” by energy retailers on their exports into the grid.
The policy would also encourage solar households to sell electricity into the market to help reduce peak demand – a concept that is being trialled in some areas.
Searle says a Labor government will give IPART “a strong mandate” to set a new solar tariff, encouraging them to look at the benefits rather than just the costs.
He said that Labor’s “office of renewable energy” would hold a roundtable with representatives of “old and new energy industries” to identify the key challenges that need to be addressed.
“It will remove barriers to the growth of a clean energy sector and model options for decentralised energy solutions,” the policy document says, including the “draconian” restrictions placed on wind farms by the Baird Government.
“It’s unfair that there’s arbitrary setbacks around wind turbines, but there’s not around coal mines,” party leader Luke Foley said.
The Office of Renewables would also oversee a fund of $6 million over four years, to augment proposals put forward by councils and communities, including grants to Community Renewable Energy projects of up to $500,000.
Foley said his government would also impose a state-wide moratorium on CSG activity, which would not be lifted unless and until the industry was proven to be safe. CSG mining “no-go zones” would also be designated.
And in a show of defiance to the fossil fuel industry, the plan also commits a NSW Labor government to implementing all 26 recommendations of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s report: “Reducing the Opportunities and Incentives for Corruption in the State’s Management of Coal Resources“.
As mentioned above, the policy commits to keeping the state’s electricity publicly owned, which Foley says will better facilitate the state’s shift to a market where individuals and communities will be able to use renewables and battery storage to generate “most, if not all” of their energy needs.
“A NSW Labor government will keep the electricity networks in public hands and shepherd the shift to affordable, decentralised and renewable energy,” the policy document says.
“Decentralised renewable energy generation will allow communities and businesses to share excess energy, trading amongst themselves. The grid will be just as important for facilitating this new regime, but it will be profoundly different.”
Labor also promises to help fossil fuel dependent communities to “diversify their economic base and capitalise on the global shift to a decarbonized economy.”
The coal-based Hunter Region, for example, would be transformed into a renewable energy hub, with $10 million to be put towards a Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources research project into storage; $2 million to establish a Hunter Clean Tech Innovation Taskforce; and $2 million to ensure Hunter TAFE can train workers in industries of the future.
The plan also allows for the deployment of energy efficient lighting to all public hospitals – a $37.4 million initiative that is expected to cut hospital power bills by approximately $72.6 million over 15 years – and commits the government to purchase electricity for its departments and agencies from renewable sources, where possible.
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