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Premier announces energy targets

NSW Premier Morris Iemma wants the state to double its production of renewable energy over the next five years, and today announced mandatory renewable energy targets for the state’s electricity companies.

The Premier today revealed plans for a $220 million wind farm as part of his government’s moves to tackle the issue of greenhouse gas emissions.

He also repeated his call for the Federal Government to establish a national action plan to address climate change.

Mr Iemma said the Federal Government should be condemned for failing to create a national carbon-trading scheme and for not organising a national climate change summit.

“Greenhouse gas emissions don’t stop at state boundaries,” Mr Iemma told a Sydney business conference on climate change today.

“State action is needed and we’ll take it, but what’s required is a national action plan, starting by calling the nation together.”

Renewable energy makes up 6 per cent of total energy used in NSW.

Under the mandatory targets announced by Mr Iemma, that figure will rise to 10 per cent by 2010 and 15 per cent by 2020.

The Government’s overall goals include a reduction of 115 million tonnes of greenhouse gases by returning to year 2000 emission levels by 2025 – a 60 per cent drop.

Electricity retailers will be required to buy certificates from renewable energy producers to prove they meet the targets.

Mr Iemma described it as the “first step” in the state’s plan to address climate change.

But he warned that people’s electricity bills would increase, since renewable energy was more expensive to provide than dirtier fuels.

Bills are expected to rise by $52 per year by 2020, but people will only have to pay an extra $10 for their renewable energy by 2030.

Mr Iemma said a wind farm comprising 63 turbines and costing $220 million will be built south of Tarago in the state’s Southern Highlands.

It will provide power to 52,000 homes and eliminate 300,000 tonnes of greenhouse gasses per year.

Environmental groups welcomed the NSW Government’s mandatory renewable energy target announcement and said the federal government needed to do more.

The Australian Conservation Foundation said the announcement demonstrated strong leadership on the issue of climate change.

“A renewable energy target of 10 per cent by 2010 and 15 per cent by 2020 is a significant commitment by the NSW Government and will make a real contribution to supporting a clean energy future,” ACF spokeswoman Monica Richter said.

“Several of our states have taken this important step forward, including Victoria with a 10 per cent target by 2016, South Australia with a 20 per cent target by 2014, and Western Australia with a six per cent target by 2010,” Ms Richter said.

“But we are yet to see a meaningful target set by our Federal Government that would really drive the investment in renewable energy.”

She said the Howard Government needed to lift its mandatory renewable energy target from two per cent by 2010 to 25 per cent by 2020.

Greenpeace spokesman Mark Wakeham said NSW’s target would provide a lifeline to renewable energy projects nationally that would otherwise not have gone ahead.

“While the targets are modest they will stimulate billions of dollars worth of investment in new renewable energy projects,” Mr Wakeham said.

But he said the proposed massive expansion of the Hunter Valley coal industry could negate any greenhouse benefits from the initiative.

“While the target compares well with Victoria’s target, it is modest by international standards,” Mr Wakeham said.

“California has a 20 per cent target for 2010, while Sweden has a target of 60 per cent by 2010 and plans to become completely oil free by 2020.”

By Vincent Morello