Net zero emissions target puts NSW economy and jobs at risk

December 19, 2018

19 December 2018


Net zero emissions target puts NSW economy and jobs at risk


The measures required to achieve the NSW Government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050 would be likely to send NSW into economic recession, costing thousands of jobs and hurting communities across the State.

Independent expert analysis prepared by the University of Queensland’s Energy Initiative of the NSW Government’s net-zero emissions target described it as “an exercise in heroic futility” given the target will have no measurable impact on the global climate; is an enormous task; comes with no guarantee that major international emitters would follow NSW’s net zero example; and will weigh down the NSW economy with significant costs.

The analysis found that achieving the goal would require:

  • Carbon plantings equivalent to the entire area of land in NSW to offset the 25% of emissions that are unavoidable such as those from agriculture, livestock production, industrial processes and manufacturing. Alternatively, ‘negative emissions’ achieved by burning biomass paired with the world’s largest program of carbon capture and storage would be needed.

  • The complete electrification of the remaining 75% of energy use and complete decarbonisation of the electricity network, while noting that “No investigations have been made of the robustness of the future NSW power system under the Zero emission scenario to withstand every-day contingencies, however it is almost certain that it would lack the necessary robustness, unless very large investments are made in transmission and synchronous generation sources. These additional integration costs could well exceed the additional costs of the renewables generation resources themselves, making the attainment of renewable penetration greater than 40% unattainable from a cost and reliability perspective.”

Renewable energy is important and will play an important role in our future energy mix. The large number of possible renewable energy projects in NSW are welcome. However many of these may not actually proceed, and even if they do, integrating large amounts of renewable energy into the grid is fraught with risk.

Just this month the highly respected Executive Director of the independent International Energy Agency Dr Faith Birol warned that flooding the Australian energy market with too many renewables too quickly risks stability, stating  “Power systems without back-up have accidents in terms of security of supply. It’s definitely not good news for the citizens and not good news for the reputation of the grid.

Despite this, some politicians are still obsessed with setting emissions targets over delivering affordability and reliability for families and businesses. This is why if any emissions targets are to be set they should be linked to targets on price and reliability.

In NSW, time is running out to properly plan for the replacement of the generation capacity that will be lost when the Liddell Power Station closes in 2022. Without a plan, NSW is likely to become reliant on interconnectors feeding intermittent renewable power from Queensland and Victoria. This is a highly risky scenario for businesses across NSW needing reliable 24/7 energy, and for those working in manufacturing and other industries across NSW.

Sound energy policy should be based on planning for the worst, not hoping for the best. An energy policy focused on meeting unrealistic emissions targets by hoping technology will be available or that renewable energy projects will proceed is economically irresponsible.  

Contact: Harry Stutchbury | | 0409 758 734 | 02 9274 1419

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