The federal government's decision to press ahead with a new $600 million gas-fired power plant at Kurri Kurri has drawn a mixed reaction with Hunter business leaders welcoming the investment as environmentalists panned the idea.
However, it will require only 10 jobs when operating.
Along with EnergyAustralia Tallawarra gas plant, it is expected to be generating power in time for summer 2023-24 when AGL's Liddell plant closes.
"Gas is a bridge to a cleaner energy future, complementing increased investment in renewables," Business Hunter chief executive Bob Hawes said.
"Industry needs energy supply that is reliable and affordable in order to remain competitive and ensure that manufacturing jobs stay here in our region.
"Investment in gas will provide the price and supply guarantee that industry needs as we continue to transition to a new energy mix."
Labor's candidate for the Upper Hunter by-election Jeff Drayton welcomed the government's investment in the region but said "this project should come with a local jobs guarantee for Hunter Valley workers".
"I'd like to see a transfer scheme that creates job pathways for workers affected by closures of local coal mines or power stations," Mr Drayton said.
"I'm also calling for a commitment to meet Labor's 'NSW Made' policy to make sure local firms are prioritised in construction and development of the project.
"Hunter Valley mining and energy workers are highly skilled, they've been keeping the lights on across NSW for decades. I'll fight to make sure they are first in line for new energy jobs."
While Mr Hawes and Mr Drayton welcomed the $600 million investment, the Climate Council wasn't as enthusiastic, describing it as an "all-round poor move for Australian taxpayers".
"Building a new gas power station in NSW will raise electricity prices for residents and businesses, not lower them," Climate Council spokesperson Andrew Stock said.
"Gas is expensive and gas peakers that rarely run need to drive up prices to get a return.
"Federal interference in the electricity market also discourages private sector investment.
"Any potential shortfall created by the closure of Liddell power station would have been filled by the NSW state government and energy industry's announced plans to build Renewable Energy Zones and big batteries across the state.
"Renewables are the cheaper, smarter choice to meet future energy demand compared to gas, which is expensive, polluting and worsens climate change."
The project announcement comes as the International Energy Agency said reaching zero net emission by 2050 would require a massive transformation of the global energy sector.
New investment in projects that use fossil fuels would have to stop immediately, which would put an end to any expansion in the sector.
Two-thirds of the world's energy would be based on wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal and hydropower by 2050, while cars would almost all be fuelled by electricity and air travel with biofuels and synthetic fuels.
Mr Taylor denied the new gas plant was out of step with the report, insisting the site would complement renewable sources.
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However, Bruce Robertson from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said the report clearly signalled the end of gas.
"The report finds that no new gas fields are needed and neither are many of the liquefied natural gas liquefaction facilities currently under construction or in planning," he said.
"Between 2020 and 2050, it is estimated that gas traded as LNG will fall by a whopping 60 per cent."
Mr Taylor said new gas supply and generation would strengthen the economy and make energy more affordable, while complementing the "world-leading levels of renewables" in Australia.
Climate Council research head Simon Bradshaw said the IEA report added to a growing body of evidence that Australia's gas-fired recovery was "unnecessary and dangerous".
"Australia has everything we need to be a global renewable energy superpower and create good jobs in new clean energy industries," Mr Bradshaw said.
- with Australian Associated Press
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