Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill 2020

17th November 2020

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (19:40:13): The unity ticket on the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill 2020 has just had a slight blip. Despite the resounding kicking that the member for Upper Hunter has just received, I fully support the member for Swansea's amendment to his amendments. I believe it is sensible and certainly fits with the understanding that other members have brought to the debate on this bill. We have all supported the bill's principles. As the member for Swansea mentioned, the Central Coast has been a heavy lifter in providing energy to the State for many years. I particularly wanted to see Lake Macquarie identified as a renewable energy zone. Right now in Lake Macquarie, Eraring Power Station, which is owned by Origin Energy. supplies some 25 per cent of the State's energy. The significance of that cannot be overlooked. As a matter of fact, Lake Macquarie is probably the most significant power generator along with the Central Coast. With Eraring, Vales Point, Munmorah and, historically, Wangi Wangi power stations, it has had the largest concentration of power generators in the State for many years. There is so much infrastructure there. It would have been almost criminal to have ignored it and not included it in a renewable energy zone.

There is also a great desire by industry to participate in this new paradigm for energy production in New South Wales. I know that my discussions with Origin Energy are reflected in other areas. It has a great commitment to the site at Eraring. We have heard a lot of talk about the potential for hydrogen production, and I believe that is one of the big opportunities for Eraring Power Station. I do not think that we should try to predict all things that might come forward, because this is such a changeable space, but we do have a number of technologies that will be very important. The Upper Hunter certainly has the capacity to produce a lot more in wind generation. There are already opportunities in pumped hydro.

To come back to Lake Macquarie, we have Centennial Coal, which was originally Power Coal. We have one of the deepest mines in the State. I am sure that Centennial Coal would want to take the opportunity and the incentives afforded by being part of a renewable energy zone and look at how it can participate as well. We need to bring this together. With the Illawarra area, it would bring together five major renewable energy zones. Looking at a map and understanding the distribution network, it looks very sensible. I commend the member for Wollongong for his amendments, which seek to maximise his area's capacity. Reflecting on its history and the heavy lifting that it has done—as did Newcastle, with its steelworks—this needs to be supported. The renewable energy zone needs to be expanded beyond the Hunter. I appreciate the amendment moved by the member for Upper Hunter, but it is made much better by the wording of the further amendment moved by the member for Swansea. As soon as these concerns were raised I think the Minister heard the message loud and clear. We were concerned that the provision of the three renewable energy zones left those communities that had done so much lifting wondering just what was going to happen to them. The amendment moved by the member for Swansea to the Government's amendments changes that and I fully support it.

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