Industry News

NSW Farmers powers up energy debate in Northern Rivers pre-election forum

By:NSW ERKH. Date: Friday, February 01, 2019.

NSW Farmers powers up energy debate in Northern Rivers pre-election forum

NSW Farmers powered up debate on energy policy at a state election forum in Lismore last night with the Coalition, Labor and the Greens laying out their views on renewables, electricity prices, solar farms and the diesel fuel rebate. 

State Energy Minister Don Harwin joined Shadow Minister Adam Searle and Sue Higginson from the Greens to focus on how best to reduce energy costs for farmers and rural communities. 

NSW Farmers’ President James Jackson said the three parties did agree that rising electricity prices are crippling farm businesses and there was a need for a cost effective transition to renewables. 

“There were differences in how each party views the best way to transition to more renewables. The Coalition Government espoused the need to build transmission lines and bring in technology to ensure the electricity system can handle more renewables,” Mr Jackson said. 

“The Shadow Minister did agree with this, but set a more ambitious target of 50 per cent renewables by 2030, while the Greens have a target of 100 per cent by 2030.

“Labor pledged to re-regulate the retail electricity market and opposes the notion that more competition has produced better consumer outcomes and the Greens called for a write down of electricity network assets to make electricity more affordable.

“There was also recognition from all three participants that pumped hydro was an important way to stabilise supply,” Mr Jackson said.

All the renewable options were discussed at the forum, with questions from the floor on the benefits of solar, wind, hydro and thermal. 

“Even nuclear energy got a mention and all three parties expressed opposition to this option. Interestingly, they also all agreed on the need for sensible local planning policy to protect prime agricultural land when it comes to the development of solar farms.

“Small-scale, farm-scale, and community scale renewable generation needs to be a bigger part of the solution to our energy challenge, rather than solely focusing on more large projects driven by the same big companies who already have dominant control of our energy sector.

“An integrated plan for small-scale and community scale renewable generation would reduce network costs, which is the highest component of regional electricity bills, break the oligopolistic power of the big gentailers, and minimise land-use conflict on prime agricultural land.  

“There was great value having the energy minister, shadow minister and the Greens at the forum to talk directly to farmers and community members in the Northern Rivers region,” Mr Jackson said. 

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