Australian state New South Wales (NSW) can “absolutely” stop using coal power by 2030, NSW Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean has said, as he declared it would not appeal a landmark court judgement ruling that regulators must do more to protect it from climate change.
Asked on Australian Broadcasting Corp’s Radio National whether NSW could meet a UN call for wealthy nations to phase out coal by 2030, Kean said it could, pointing to the state plan to build 12 gigawatts of renewable energy and 2 gigawatts of energy storage that was passed by parliament with multi-party support last year.
He said the federally backed Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project would also help.
“We absolutely can meet the target,” he said. “We have the biggest renewable energy plan that has been legislated in the nation’s history right here in NSW and that means as our coal-fired power plants reach the end of their lives over the next decade they will be replaced with renewables.”
NSW gets nearly 70 percent of its electricity from burning black coal. The state has five coal-fired plants, only two of which — Liddell and Vales Point — are officially scheduled to close this decade.
Kean’s comment suggests that he believes the other three — including the Mount Piper plant, which is not scheduled to close until 2043 — would stop operating much earlier than planned.
It is consistent with analyses that have found coal plants across Australia could shut early as they are increasingly being priced out of the market by cheap solar energy.
Not for the first time, Kean’s position appears at odds with the Australian Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor, who has backed an Energy Security Board recommendation to introduce a “capacity market” to ensure there is enough “dispatchable” energy — power that can be called on when needed — available to support variable renewable energy sources.
Taylor has said the capacity market would be “technology neutral,” but could help keep existing generators — coal — “from shutting down too early.”
Kean last month said that he was “carefully examining” the board’s advice to ensure its proposals worked alongside the state’s plans to substantially increase renewable generation and new sources of dispatchable generation, such as pumped hydro and batteries, and would not increase costs.
Kean also told Radio National that he and the board of the Environment Protection Authority had accepted a judgement by the state’s land and environment court last month that the agency had a duty to develop objectives, policies and guidelines to protect the environment from climate change.
It was the first time a court found an Australian government agency was failing in its duty to address climate change and must take action to address greenhouse gas emissions. It followed a legal challenge by the group Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action.
Kean said that he wanted to use “all the levers within government” to do what the court found was necessary.
“We’ll be doing everything necessary to give that full effect,” he said.
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