I speak in debate on the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill 2020.
As we launch into the 2020s it is worth noting that we have lost another decade to climate inaction. For those of us who care deeply about taking real action on climate change and are deeply concerned about the state of the planet our children will inherit, the past 10 years has been a decade of disappointment. Time and again the politics of climate have failed us and stalled the progress we desperately need to make if we are to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, reduce emissions and limit dangerous temperature rises.
There can be no doubt that politicians on both sides of the political divide are at fault, choosing division when what we really need is unity and action.
The foundation principle of this bill is that we simply cannot afford to lose another decade to climate inaction, nor can we sit idly by as our ageing electricity network is driven slowly but surely into the ground. Four of our State's five coal-fired power stations will reach their end of life in the next five to 15 years. Unless the Government acts now, the lights will simply go out. It is very clear we must act now to build the energy network that future generations demand of us.
I am hopeful that this moment in the New South Wales Parliament signals a new chapter in climate policy when true optimistic and genuine bipartisanship help us turn the page and gets us moving when it really counts.
The bill before the House is imperfect; the plan it enables is imperfect. But it is action and I believe it will make a real difference.
The bill is a win for evidence and science, which have spoken in broad consensus for quite some time about the importance of action on climate change. It is a win for renewables, the potential of which has not yet been unlocked. There is so much to do when it comes to renewables.
I note the exceptional work of the members for Swansea and for Wollongong in already improving the Government's bill. If implemented correctly, the bill will be a real win for workers with opportunities for quality, sustainable, high-paying jobs across our State.
The bill also promises a win for electricity consumers, with the Minister indicating it will save New South Wales households an average of $130 a year and small businesses $440 a year. That will be good news, if this plan is implemented properly.
It must be said that this bill represents a significant shift from a government and political party that has been divided on this issue.
Many people in the community will be suspicious of this move but I must say that, as one who has called out the dinosaurs in The Nationals and the Liberal Party, many of them will be gritting their teeth as this bill passes through the New South Wales Parliament.
But I must make very clear today that I am proud that NSW Labor is supporting the bill.
Although Labor will move amendments to ensure that the plan is as strong and effective as possible, particularly for workers in the Hunter, the Central Coast and the Illawarra, Labor members genuinely recognise that something has got to give; something has to be done. The communities that Labor represents expect nothing less.
The bill seeks to enact the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap announced by the Minister to replace our ageing coal-fired power stations and acknowledges that the future must lie with renewables.
As reported, the plan aims to attract $32 billion in renewable energy infrastructure in the next 10 years.
It aims to generate 6,300 construction jobs and 2,800 ongoing jobs by 2030, the majority of which will be located in our regions.
The plan aims to create $1.5 billion in lease payments for regional landowners from renewable power generation, such as wind and solar, and reduce our State's greenhouse gas emissions by 90 million tonnes.
Importantly, the plan will generate three gigawatts of firm capacity reliable energy by 2030 and set an energy security target and monitor to transparently identify and guide how much firm capacity is needed to reliably power our State.
Underpinning the bill is the understanding that industry needs certainty if it is to invest in renewables.
For too long investment in renewables has been hampered by a lack of vision and guidance, as well as no leadership by State and Commonwealth governments. Consistently over the past few years the Climate Council's renewable energy race scorecard has listed our State as at the starting blocks when it comes to renewable generation.
Last year New South Wales came sixth out of eight, with only 17.3 per cent of our electricity generated from renewables and only 20 per cent of our households using solar energy. Hopefully, this bill will raise our energy stocks in New South Wales. Analysis suggests that the plan could boost our share of renewable energy to 60 per cent by 2030, which is a very good thing.
The bill will do that by establishing renewable energy zones—areas in which the Government can leverage economies of scale in technologies, infrastructure and planning mechanisms to convert multiple generators in the area and attract greater investment. The bill indicates that these zones will be established in the Central West, New England and South West regions. I note that the Minister in his second reading speech said that the Hunter would be a prime location for a renewable energy zone [REZ]. He stated that he was "happy to work with any community in the State that wants to host a REZ and unlock the roadmap's economic benefits."
Renewable energy zones promise to amplify existing investments in renewables and generate an additional 12 gigawatts of new renewable energy projects by 2030.
These projects would be facilitated through reverse auction mechanisms used to great effect around the world as well as in other States around this country. Effectively, the reverse auction uses the Government's procurement and purchasing powers to set a guaranteed minimum floor price for electricity that energy companies can bank on, making investment in renewables projects a more certain mechanism.
The Government will complement this reverse auction approach by developing two gigawatts of storage, including pumped hydro and batteries and initiating an electricity infrastructure investment safeguard with long-term service agreements for companies developing renewables.
Finally, in addition to energy generation, the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill 2020 seeks to increase new transmission capacity so that new energy generation projects can actually deliver power to the grid.
I am hopeful that the provisions in the bill will deliver the greater certainty that industry and energy companies need to turbocharge their investment in renewables.
I have some confidence given that many of these provisions mirror those NSW Labor took to the last election.
Labor promised to set a renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030 and bring that investment to 100 per cent by 2050. We promised to generate six gigawatts of renewable energy through reverse auctions, two gigawatts of renewable energy through roof-top solar panels and one gigawatt of renewable energy by creating a new State-owned corporation.
I am pleased to see many of those policy principles adopted in this bill. I note it would be strengthened by enshrining a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
A clear target in this legislation would bolster our State's credibility on climate action, signal that we are serious about meeting our temperature goals and provide further accountability as to how the provisions of this bill will work in effect.
Labor has always understood that investing in renewables provides opportunities not only to sustain the livelihoods and dignity of workers and communities, but also to respect and harness their extraordinary skills and capacity to drive our energy network into the future.
Now more than ever, as our regional communities reel from the COVID-19 recession, we need an ironclad guarantee—certainty—that the jobs will come forth in the regions that need it most. I call on the Minister to strengthen this bill by accepting Labor's amendments and ensuring the jobs he is promising are boots on the ground, not just figures in a brochure.
I welcome news that the Minister has agreed to Labor's amendment to push for greater local procurement and to establish a Renewable Energy Sector Board, which will give workers, unions and manufacturers a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions about the operations of the sector and the infrastructure it will need.
As the shadow Minister for the Cost of Living, I am also pleased that the board will have a representative of electricity customers. I am sure they will keep the Minister honest when it comes to his promised reduction in electricity prices.
These are significant wins thanks to the member for Swansea and the member for Wollongong and the work of the Labor team. I again thank them for their persistent and principled advocacy for workers and local jobs across New South Wales.
I note that there is now broad agreement to include the Hunter in the proposed South West Renewable Energy Zone. Labor is also passionate about including the Central Coast. Those conversations are ongoing. It is critical that workers from those regions are included because they are among the most impacted by the move away from fossil fuels. They need to be able to participate fully in the opportunities that this new chapter in energy generation will bring to our State.
I urge the Government to continue working with the Labor Opposition on these important amendments.
Our parliamentary democracy is rooted in the contest of ideas and the healthy exercise of differences of opinion. For too long the debate around energy policy and climate change has been polluted by darker politics—politics that seek to exploit the fears of our community, to spread misinformation and to divide us.
It says a lot that this bill has attracted such broad, if at times cautious, support.
I note that the bill is supported by Farmers for Climate Action, who are excited by the opportunities it brings to drought-proof properties, providing "a reliable, off-farm income stream, while also reducing emissions".
That is a great thing.
The bill is supported by the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Nature Conservation Council. Chief Executive Chris Gambian described it as, "Serious action on climate change in a way that will also create jobs and bring down power prices."
It has won cautious support from unions and cautious support from the broader energy sector. Along the way it has even united The Nationals and the Liberals.
I am excited about the opportunities it brings.
I am cautiously optimistic that this will bring to an end the time of division and inaction on this critical policy area both for our State and for our country.
I hope this is a moment of genuine unity and that together we ensure we leave our planet in a fit state for our children, because our communities expect nothing less.