Australian State Targets Renewables Boost to Replace Fading Coal

Australia’s most populous state will look to attract A$32 billion ($23 billion) in private investment over the next decade to boost its renewable energy capacity as aging coal-fired plants near retirement.

The New South Wales government’s Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap announced Monday outlines a 20-year plan to “turbo-charge” the growth of wind and solar generation in designated renewable energy zones, backed up by storage technologies such as pumped hydro.

“This roadmap is about acting now to leverage our competitive advantage and to position the state as an energy superpower,” state Energy Minister Matt Kean said in a statement.

Four of the state’s five remaining coal-fired power stations are scheduled to close over the next 15 years, starting with AGL Energy Ltd.’s Liddell plant in 2023, leaving the state with a huge gap in power generation to fill. Renewable Energy Zones form the centerpiece of Kean’s plan, targeting investment and jobs in regional areas.

Wind and solar will supply 56% of electricity globally by 2050, up from 9% in 2020, representing an $11 trillion investment opportunity, according to BloombergNEF forecasts. Renewables currently make up around one fifth of the energy mix in New South Wales, with coal still providing the bulk of generation capacity.

Kean’s plan includes A$50 million in grants to support pumped hydro developments. New South Wales already plays host to the 2,000 megawatt Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project, which is backed by the national government. The A$5 billion-plus project has been criticized for crowding out investment in new generation capacity.

The roadmap also focuses on speeding up the approvals process for building new transmission infrastructure -- seen by energy planners as essential in managing the transition to a grid based on solar and wind power.

“This will help regional communities recover from our economic crisis by creating thousands of jobs, and attracting new industry and investment,” said Amanda McKenzie, chief executive officer at lobby group the Climate Council.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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