THE Hunter-Central Coast and the Illawarra are set to become formal Renewable Energy Zones after an amended Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill was passed in the NSW Parliament lower house, Labor MPs said last night.
The Bill, which underpins the government's Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap unveiled earlier this month, needs to be passed by the upper house to become law. Labor MLC Adam Searle said last night that it was likely to be debated today.
Hunter Labor MPs Tim Crakanthorp (Newcastle) and Jenny Aitchison (Maitland) both spoke yesterday afternoon, raising concerns that the Hunter and Central Coast regions - the state's coal and electricity powerhouses - were ignored in the proposed legislation.
Labor's Granville MP Julia Finn said the pumped hydro aspect was "controversial" and a "huge change in mindset" but she was confident it could be "managed well".
Wagga Wagga Liberal Joe McGirr welcomed the bill but he wanted better protection for landowners from the impacts of big solar farms and the new "priority" transmission lines that must be built to connect them.
READ YESTERDAY'S SPEECHES HERE IN FULL IN HANSARD
Debate in the Legislative Assembly proceeded around the handing down of Treasurer Dominic Perrottet's fourth budget yesterday, with a number of amendments moved and voted on before the final shape of the Bill - at least before it goes the Legislative Council - was determined.
Liberal MP for Terrigal, Adam Crouch, spoke about the ageing nature of the state's coal-fired power stations, which are not expected to be replaced.
"The regulatory and market frameworks are not set up to enable the private sector to deliver the renewable energy zone infrastructure in the time and at the scale that it is needed," Mr Crouch said. As parliamentary secretary for the Central Coast, he said he welcomed his region being legislated as a "renewable energy zone".
"Transmission projects have long lead times and can take many years to develop.
"The delivery of transmission and generation projects needs to be coordinated to ensure they are scale efficient and in the long-term interest of consumers and host regions.
"Generators need some certainty of revenue and insulation against the risks of congestion on the network to be able to secure finance."
THE HERALD'S TAKE ON AN ENERGETIC NOVEMBER
- Herald's Opinion: Hunter should be a 'renewable zone', but pumped hydro a gamble
- Herald's Opinion Fitzgibbon resignation shows Labor pressure in Hunter, Illawarra and Qld coal basins
- Herald's Opinion: Big technical achievements in store if NSW to achieve green power 'purity'
- Herald's Opinion: Pumped hydro unpacked
- Herald's Opinion: Joining the links of the energy chain
Mr Crakanthorp, describing the government not originally nominating the Central Coast as "a great backflip", said he spoke "in conditional support" of the Bill, and said, as other Labor speakers had done, that it effectively "adopted Labor's 2019 election policy".
He said Labor's amendments on local goods and mandated numbers of apprentices and trainees would support local businesses and employment.
"The Hunter already has significant infrastructure in place for high-voltage transmission and will be one of the first regions to face the effects of the wind down of fossil fuel energy generation with the Liddell power station due to close in three years," Mr Crakanthorp said.
Ms Aitchison, who spoke about a need to properly consult on major issues such as this, said the government had been "slow" to react to climate change.
On the selection of renewable energy zones, she said: "People in the regions are sick of being pawns in Macquarie Street politics.
"We must ensure that these renewable energy zones will create jobs in our regions, but we must also look at the jobs in our regions that are at risk through these changes and not just keep picking winners and losers."
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here
IN THE NEWS:
- Record infrastructure spending to stimulate the state's post-pandemic economy
- Wild storm in Newcastle: trees fall on cars, houses in Shortland, SES crews to work through Tuesday, November 17
- Tax cuts, food vouchers in virus budget
- Coal, energy policy and climate change bring Canberra heavyweights to the Hunter Region