Saturday, 11 November 2006

Subsidies to pay for green power drive

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 10/11/2006, Page: 6

Wendy Frew Environment Reporter

NSW taxpayers will subsidise investment in renewable energy projects in other states and pay more to subsidise energy-intensive industries such as aluminium and steel under a State Government scheme announced yesterday.

The Government's decision to make energy retailers buy 15 per cent of their electricity supply from clean sources such as wind and solar by 2020 will add only $1 a week to consumer power bills, the Premier, Morris lemma, said.

He said the scheme would cut the state's greenhouse gas pollution by 115 million tonnes - the equivalent of taking 25 million cars off the road for 12 months - and stimulate investment in renewable energy generation. "The need to act on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions is clear," he said.

The "green" electricity could be sourced from anywhere in the National Electricity Market (which does not include Western Australia or the Northern Territory).

That meant NSW taxpayers would get the cheapest renewable energy available rather than relying on projects inside NSW, the chief executive of the Renewable Energy Generators of Australia, Susan Jeanes, said. "For example, the optimum sites for wind are found in South Australia and Tasmania," she said.

However, Greenpeace said the scheme could mean NSW would miss out on jobs and investment associated with renewable energy, making it more difficult to move away from coal-fired power.

"Overwhelmingly, our response [to the scheme] is positive, but we want NSW to start moving away from coal, not just offsetting its greenhouse gas emissions in other states," Greenpeace's energy campaigner, Mark Wakeham, said.

The increased price of power associated with the scheme will not flow to "energy-intensive users" such as the aluminium and steel industries. Mr Wakeham said that meant taxpayers would further subsidise those industries, which already receive tens of millions of dollars in electricity discounts.

The Opposition's environment spokesman, Michael Richardson, said it would have preferred a scheme that encouraged investment in NSW. He called for NSW to fund research into so-called "clean-coal" technology to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The renewable energy target follows a similar scheme in Victoria, which has a 10 per cent green power target by 2016. South Australia has a 20 per cent target by 2014, much of which has been met by Federal Government support for renewable energy.

Almost all of Tasmania's power is provided by renewable energy.

Mr lemma also announced planning approval for a $220 million wind farm south of Tarago. Until now, there was no market for the cleaner but more expensive electricity generated by wind farms.

The Government's energy plan also includes a continued push for a national emissions trading scheme and curbing demand for electricity. It also made a commitment to stabilising greenhouse gas pollution at 2000 levels by 2025, and cutting them by 60 per cent by 2050.

At The Coalface
  • In 2005, 90 per cent of NSW's electricity came from coal-fired power.
  • Electricity generation contributes about one third of greenhouse emissions in NSW.
  • Only 6.1 per cent of the state's electricity consumption is from renewable sources.