Australia’s richest state has notched up its commitment to clean energy by resetting its 2030 target for cuts to emissions to 50% below 2005 levels, from 35%. Former Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the new objective will attract more than $37 billion in investment.

The Net Zero: Stage 1 Implementation Update, Berejiklian said, would “support more than 9,000 jobs, save households about $130 on their electricity bills and help NSW become Australia’s first trillion-dollar state by 2030”.

Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean repeated the ambition heard among proponents of clean energy exports such as hydrogen that “we can be a renewable energy superpower”.

“As global demand for low carbon products and investments grows, the fortunes of the state are increasingly tied to the fortunes of our planet,” Kean said.

The state now has a higher hurdle to clear on emissions but the fact is there are already enough renewable energy projects under construction and at various stages of planning to achieve the task.

Virtually no space left

Rystad Energy senior analyst renewable research David Dixon says that based on what’s under construction and operating in NSW there’s probably enough solar and wind in the system to get to 25-30% variable renewables, not including hydro.

“There’s no lack of renewable projects in NSW to get it to where it needs to go,” Dixon says. “There are already more than enough renewables projects proposed in NSW to go beyond 50%, but there are two key issues: transmission and storage.”

Dixon says there is “virtually no space left” on the existing transmission network outside of Sydney’s 500kV ring to take generation from new wind or solar plants.

“Lack of storage projects to firm the renewables is another issue, but less of an issue [than transmission],” he told EcoGeneration. “Getting transmission projects approved and built is a glacial, multi-year journey … if successful.”

How it all fits together

NSW is at the forefront of a massive national transition to reduce emissions, said KPMG partner Sally Torgoman and partner and head of energy transition Barry Sterland.

Policy underpinnings are in place to achieve the transition, they said, including underwriting mechanisms for renewable energy, storage, firming and infrastructure, support for new green technology in manufacturing and ambitious goals and policies for EV rollout.

The delivery of these solutions relies on significant investment in new transmission, however, and support at federal level.

“Timely build of transmission and distribution networks will be important to unlock the additional generation in the market, and supportive national policies on transport and industrial emissions would assist NSW in meeting and beating these targets,” Torgoman and Sterland said in an email response to EcoGeneration.