Greens plot exit from fossil fuels by 2030


Greens plot exit from fossil fuels by 2030

June 24, 2013 – 6:53PM
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Closure touted: The Greens envision shutting down a unit at Wallerawang power station in the central tablelands by 2017.Closure touted: The Greens envision shutting down a unit at Wallerawang power station in the central tablelands by 2017. Photo: Peter Braig

Could NSW be made to operate completely free of fossil-fuelled electricity within 17 years?

The Greens think so. The state branch of the party will this week unveil a bold plan to close down every coal- or gas-fired power plant in the state by 2030, while guaranteeing employment for displaced power sector workers.

The proposal, to be put before State Parliament on Thursday, would cost $8.2 billion a year, part of which would be funded by removing fuel subsidies for mining and power companies that amount to about $2 billion.

The Greens concede that the plan, which relies on the work of University of NSW researchers and the environment group Beyond Zero Emissions, is unlikely to gain much support from the Coalition or Labor.


Instead it is designed to extend the breadth of current debate about the state’s future energy policies and climate change ambitions.

“The barriers to weaning the state off fossil fuels are no longer technical or economic,” Greens MP John Kaye said. “It is the politicians who are getting in the way of the tens of thousands of new jobs in renewable energy . . . The bill might not become law but we want to force every state politician to face the reality that there is an alternative to burning coal and gas that secures electricity supplies and a strong economic future for the state.”

The NSW Minerals Council said the Greens’ bill contained “ridiculously expensive fantasies that would cripple the NSW economy and destroy our way of life”.

The plan calls for a rapid expansion of solar and wind energy to allow the state to close down a unit of Wallerawang power station, in the state’s central tablelands, by 2017, and a ban on the building of new fossil-fuelled power plants of greater than 15 megawatts – a relatively tiny size.

The party wants a panel of experts in renewable power and energy efficiency appointed by the Resources Minister to advise on the most effective way of closing down all remaining large-scale coal and gas plants by 2030. Power plant workers would be represented on the panel by a union official, and all staff would be guaranteed their existing pay and conditions in new jobs in the renewable sector, where many more wind farms and big solar thermal power stations would be constructed.

Stephen Galilee, the chief executive of the ninerals council, said the proposal was hugely expensive and impractical, and would affect 23,000 workers in the Hunter and Illawarra, along with others who depend upon their incomes.

“NSW coal currently provides around 85 per cent of our state’s electricity and is the state’s most valuable export, so the Greens’ policy would threaten the state’s electricity supply, export income and major global trading relationships,” Mr Galilee said in a statement.

“NSW coal also provides around 29 per cent of Australia’s national energy supply so the Greens’ policy would have significant flow-on impacts on the national economy too.”

The renewed debate comes after the Australian Climate Commission declared in a major report last week that most of Australia’s coal reserves would need to be left unburned if the world were to have any hope of meeting the internationally agreed target of holding global warming to an average of two degrees this century.

The commission’s report, which used projections from the International Energy Agency and other respected groups, said it was not seeking to influence political outcomes, but was simply presenting the most up-to-date science on climate change and the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.

The commission’s findings were contested by the Australian Coal Association and other resources groups, which assert that the market for exported coal is healthy. The concept of “unburnable carbon” is a fallacy, the coal association said, because analysts factor risks into company valuations.

The IEA projections suggest that significant amounts of coal would still be burned into the second half of this century.

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