The NSW Government has looked 30 years into the future and seen a possible scenario where consumption and energy use does not simply mean sending more carbon into the atmosphere. If we all are incentivized to change our habits today, by 2050 the Department of Planning Industry and Environment is confident the state can meet a target of net zero emissions.

It’s very brave and very exciting, because a clear signal from policymakers is something the clean energy sector loves.

The government hopes its Net Zero Plan Stage 1: 2020-2030, released in mid-March, will cut emissions by about 35% from 2005 levels in 10 years’ time. Over the 10 years it is expected the plan will create 2,400 new jobs in the energy sector and inspire $11.6 billion in investment, two-thirds of it in regional areas. Households can expect to save $40 a year on bills as a result.

The government’s plan is broken into four priorities:

  • Priority 1 Drive uptake of proven emissions reduction technologies
  • Priority 2 Empower consumers and businesses to make sustainable choices
  • Priority 3 Invest in the next wave of emissions reduction innovation
  • Priority 4 Ensure the NSW Government leads by example

Most of the impact to the electricity market in the state will be contained in the first priority, which includes the state and federal governments’ commitment to fast-track the delivery of NSW’s first renewable energy zone and the creation of two others, with the potential for 17.7GW of renewable energy.

The plan will hinge on expansion of transmission infrastructure into those regions to open new parts of the grid for renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar farms. The three zones in the state’s central west, around the Dubbo, New England, around Armidale, and south west, around Hay, will play a critical role in replacing retiring generators in NSW over the next 20 years, the department said in a statement.

Up to $23 billion of private sector investment is expected to flow into projects in the regions with about 2,000 construction jobs each year in regional NSW.

Energy efficiency boost

The plan also includes creation of an Energy Security Safeguard, an expansion of the Energy Savings Scheme, to ensure NSW has access to cheaper, more reliable electricity supplies. It will support the uptake energy savings activities that reduce the demand of businesses and households on the electricity and gas network, such as energy-efficient lighting upgrades or replacing the use of grid gas with onsite biomass, and demand shifting and peak reduction technologies, like smart pool pumps and household batteries.

“Where there are technologies that can reduce both our emissions and costs for households and businesses, we want to roll them out across the state,” NSW Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean said. “Where these technologies are not yet commercial, we want to invest in their development so they will be available in the decades to come.”

About two-thirds of private investment under the plan will go to regional and rural NSW, he said, creating job opportunities and diversifying local economies affected by drought and bushfires.

“Our actions are firmly grounded in science and economics, not ideology, to give our workers and businesses to best opportunity to thrive in a low-carbon world.”

Together, the Renewable Energy Zones, the Safeguard, and the Energy Efficiency Program will ensure the NSW electricity system delivers for consumers by promoting more resilient and sustainable energy supplies. These measures are expected to reduce household bills by $40 per year, the plan says.