Australia continues to have a love/hate relationship with renewable energy. The country theoretically has enough coal reserves to meet all its energy needs for a millennium. The owners of the coal want to extract it all and burn it so they can fatten their wallets. Able to command large sums of money, they have managed to capture the federal government and force it to do their bidding.
But the individual states have a different vision. Motivated in part by not wanting to poison every man, woman, and child in Australia with choking clouds of coal dust, carbon dioxide, and particulates, they are pushing hard on a renewable energy agenda with Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland leading the charge.
Now Labor party leaders in New South Wales want to join in. Michael Daley, who heads the NSW Labor party, has pledged to add 7 GW of renewable energy to NSW if the voters elect him to lead the state in the upcoming election in March. The move would power up to 3 million homes in NSW over the next decade and create up to 13,000 new jobs. The Daley proposal includes a new state owned power corporation that will deliver a further 1 GW of renewable energy generation and storage over the next decade, according to Australian news source Energy Matters.
Using similar initiatives in Victoria as a model, Daley expects his proposals to raise $9.5 billion through a series of competitive tenders and long-term contracts — known as reverse auctions — in which governments invite bids for projects from developers at the lowest price they would accept. Daley said in the announcement reported by The Guardian, the timing, size, and content of each auction round would be determined in conjunction with the Australian Energy Market Operator.
The Nature Conservation Council has been quick to endorse the Daley plan. Its CEO, Kate Smolski, said in a statement, “State Labor’s pledge to add seven gigawatts of large scale solar, wind and storage to the grid is a game-changer that would make NSW a leader in clean energy in Australia, slash the state’s carbon emissions by 12% and power about three million households.
“The ALP’s pledge on rooftop solar and large-scale renewables would see NSW go from laggard to leader in clean energy in Australia by increasing the mix of solar, wind and hydro up to 35% by 2023. This is a very welcome announcement and sets a standard that we call on the Coalition to match or exceed in coming weeks.”
The NSW Labor announcement comes after Daley last week said the party would aim to see half a million more homes in the state install rooftop solar over the next decade by allowing owner-occupied households in NSW with a combined income of $180,000 or less to claim a capped solar rebate.
Much as in the United States, leaders at the federal level in Australia are trying every trick in the book to prop up coal and other fossil fuels when it comes to energy generation but the individual states are having none of those wrong headed policies. Ultimately it comes down to simple economics. Renewables simply cost less than conventional generating methods. No amount of ideological blathering can offset that.
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