22 May 2024

Residents largely in the dark about how transition to renewable energy will work

| Michele Tydd
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Man doing work in a backyard.

Electrician Nick Wade says there needs to be more communication from governments about what renewable energy will mean for his industry. Photo: Supplied.

Trying to get your head around the NSW Government’s complex strategy to transition to a mix of renewable energy by 2040 is no easy task.

In 2020, it released a lengthy on-line master plan for “cheap, clean, reliable energy” titled NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap. It covers topics including energy targets, energy storage, governance and private investment.

Illawarra gets a significant mention as one of the sites for the five proposed modern-day power stations known as renewable energy zones (REZs) to replace four of the five coal-fired power stations to be phased out.

NSW Climate Change and Energy Minister Penny Sharpe says opportunities for involvement in transition has caused “huge excitement” in the Illawarra.

But from a straw poll involving discussions with Illawarra residents from all walks of life, engagement with or understanding of this multi-layered strategy plan seems low.

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Wollongong electrician and business owner Nick Wade says he is on board with renewables “but at the moment it doesn’t seem remotely feasible by 2040 because there is so much to do at grassroots level”.

“I know from experience there are tens of thousands of power boards in the Illawarra that will need upgrading, which costs from $1000 to $5000 – who’s going to pay for that?” he says.

“I’m also disappointed in the lack of government guidance for our industry. We are central to this change, but a lot of us are in the dark on issues like how it will impact us during and after the transition.

“As a business owner as well as an electrician, I’d like to see more communication, particularly about what sort of upskilling will be needed to thrive in the future.”

Michael Crowley, a retired financial planner from Bulli, says specific and qualified information from federal and state governments about transitioning to renewable energy sources by specific dates has been scant.

“Apart from occasional letterbox pamphlets pushing windfarms off the coast and politicians on television spruiking about the benefits of green energy, where is the evidence from credible scientific sources to suggest we need to switch off existing coal-fired power stations before any well considered and proven options are in place,” he says.

“A switch to renewable energy is inevitable, but I suspect the urgency may be more politically motivated than necessary.

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“The public needs well thought out, scientifically supported facts, not hearsay from self-proclaimed experts pushing their own often one-sided agendas.

“While I’m not necessarily a proponent of nuclear energy, why isn’t this alternative on the table for consideration, especially from a long-term perspective?”

Region Illawarra asked Ms Sharpe for comment on the lackluster response within the community, and how engagement could be improved.

She insists there is huge excitement in the Illawarra about the opportunities for involvement in the energy transition.

“Households are already adding solar and batteries. New energy businesses like Hysata are taking root, established businesses like BlueSscope and unions representing workers are all finding ways to be part of the investment in renewable energy coming to the Illawarra,” she said.

“The Illawarra is perfectly placed to bring together the skills, research, entrepreneurism and community leadership to make sure the Illawarra is set up for a prosperous and low carbon future.

“There is a long way to go to bring more people into this exciting conversation.”

For more information about REZ, click here. TAFE NSW has information on courses for tradies and others who want to explore jobs under the transition; click here for more details.

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