Question Time: Eraring Power Station

23rd March 2022

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (14:58): My question is directed to the Treasurer and Minister for Energy. Given that Origin Energy has signalled an intention to close the State's largest coal-fired power station, at Eraring, in 2025—up to seven years early—what is the Government doing to ensure energy security in New South Wales? Will the Treasurer assure the communities in Lake Macquarie and the Hunter that new jobs will be created in the areas where they are being lost?

Mr MATT KEAN (HornsbyTreasurer, and Minister for Energy) (14:58): I thank the member for Lake Macquarie for his question and acknowledge his advocacy for his community at this very difficult time, with the closure of the Eraring coal-fired power station. Origin Energy's announcement that it intends to close Eraring Power Station in 2025 is difficult news for his communities and those of many members representing electorates in the Hunter. I acknowledge the member for Swansea in particular. Many of the workers at the power station and the mines that supply the power station have helped to power our State for decades. The power station plays a big role in supporting the Lake Macquarie and Hunter economies. I want to make it very clear that I expect Origin to honour its obligations to its workforce and do everything in its power to support those affected and the community at this very difficult time.

The Government is committed to supporting jobs and ensuring that the people of New South Wales have access to secure and affordable energy. That is why the Government has announced a three-part plan to respond to Origin's decision. The first part of the plan relates to energy reliability. To ensure reliability, the Government is working with industry partners to deliver the biggest network battery in the Southern Hemisphere: the giant, 700-megawatt Waratah Super Battery. The Government will go through a competitive process, but it is looking to utilise government-owned sites like Lake Munmorah, as an example, next to Colongra Power Station. Again, the Government will go through a competitive process to make sure that it gets the best site and the best deal for taxpayers, but it is looking to find a site as close as possible to Eraring, to keep those jobs local and inject that investment into the local economy.

Currently, powerlines must operate well below their capacity so that they can handle any sudden shocks, like a power surge from a bushfire or a lightning strike. The Waratah Super Battery will act like a shock absorber, absorbing those power surges and freeing up extra transmission capacity to transport more electricity from existing generators in New South Wales, like Snowy Hydro, for example. New South Wales has the strongest electricity reliability standard anywhere in the country, and that is known as our Energy Security Target. The Australian Energy Market Operator has advised that the planned additional transmission capacity, including the Waratah Super Battery, will give the State access to enough electricity generation to meet the Energy Security Target when Eraring closes, so that we have enough of a buffer to ensure that we can keep the lights on whilst not putting upward pressure on power prices and so that we have another way to deal with power prices, which brings me to my next point.

We know how important it is to put downward pressure on electricity prices, and that is why the second part of the Government's response is to accelerate the implementation of the Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap. We know that the best way to put downward pressure on electricity prices is to build more supply, and that is exactly what the road map seeks to do. It is a comprehensive plan to transform our electricity system that will keep power prices as low as possible for homes and businesses across New South Wales. The road map is expected to deliver $32 billion worth of private investment in electricity infrastructure by 2030, create around 6,300 construction jobs and 2,800 ongoing jobs in 2030, and save households around $130 per annum on their household bills between 2023 and 2040.

I recognise the contribution of every member of this House who supported the road map 18 months ago in a show of cross-party support to deliver affordable, reliable and sustainable electricity. That was genuinely every member of this House apart from the Shooters, who teamed up with One Nation to deprive people across the State of cheap, reliable and clean electricity. Notwithstanding that, the Government is also establishing a transmission acceleration facility that will fast-track the delivery of critical transmission infrastructure needed to connect new sources of generation that will put downward pressure on electricity prices.

The final part of the Government's response is a comprehensive plan to support jobs. I am pleased to update the House that the Government's plan will support up to 3,700 jobs in future industries, including an estimated 500 jobs from a $250 million renewable manufacturing fund for initiatives to boost locally manufactured content for the renewable energy sector, such as wind towers, electrolysers and batteries. That will support the work of the Renewable Energy Sector Board, which is currently being chaired by Craig Memery and Dan Walton, to make sure that we get local content and local labour used in these projects in a way that protects consumer interests. That money is on the table to support those initiatives. There are 500 extra jobs that will be created from $300 million of investment in new industries, like green hydrogen. There are 2,700 direct construction jobs from fast-tracked delivery of critical transmission infrastructure under the Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap. [Extension of time]

The Hunter and Lake Macquarie communities are in pole position to take advantage of the jobs that will be created in these new industries. The Hunter and Lake Macquarie are home to the highly skilled workforce that we need to drive our economic prosperity in a rapidly changing world. I assure the member for Lake Macquarie and his community that this Government is committed to delivering jobs in his community, in communities across the Hunter, in the member for Swansea's community and in the communities of all members who represent that region.

Mr David Harris: Wyong?

Mr MATT KEAN: And in the member for Wyong's community, of course. This is an issue that must be beyond politics. We must put in place the policies that will see New South Wales electricity consumers get access to the cheapest, most reliable and cleanest form of electricity that lead to a manufacturing boom for heavy industry and energy-intensive industries across this State. I believe that with the policies that have been collectively supported by all members of this Chamber—apart from the Shooters and One Nation—we can see the next industrial revolution in New South Wales because we will have a competitive advantage in a new world that is quickly emerging.

Today 50 per cent of the world's GDP is being created in jurisdictions that have committed to net zero emissions. If we can get ahead of the curve by producing those goods and services that the rest of the world will need to meet its carbon objectives, then we will do so in a way that creates jobs, drives investment and underwrites a new era of prosperity for the Hunter and the whole State. That is the objective. I thank every member of this Chamber who got behind those policies, and who put policy, engineering and science at the forefront of decision-making—ahead of ideology and mythology. Unlike the Shooters and One Nation, those members prioritised investment in the future of this State, ensuring that we can see jobs, investment, cheap energy prices and a manufacturing boom like we have never seen before led by the Lake Macquarie and Hunter communities.

Website: Read the Parliamentary Hansard here

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