“This deal will significantly lower our emissions, transmission our grid, shore up our reliability of supply and lower our power prices.”
The federal funding, which will be a mix of grants and loans, will be used to upgrade NSW’s energy grid and invest in emissions reductions initiatives, such as methane capture from landfill and land-based carbon farming projects like agriculture or forestry.
However, Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie labelled NSW’s commitment to boost its gas supply a “pollution policy”.
“More gas isn’t a climate policy; it is a pollution policy. While fires are still threatening lives and properties, why is the government investing in making the problem worse?” she said.
“Every dollar towards fossil fuel projects is a dollar toward making heatwaves worse and fires more damaging.”
Nature Conservation Council chief executive Chris Gambian welcomed the investment in clean energy projects, but rejected claims that gas “represents a necessary or viable transition fuel”.
“We are eagerly awaiting the details of the government’s plan. Let’s hope today signals the end of the bluster and denial and the start of serious leadership and action,” Mr Gambian said.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Prime Minister Scott Morrison focused on the gas aspect of the deal in making their announcement on Friday, giving few details about the investment in emission abatement.
Ms Berejiklian said gas was “critical” to “a very smooth transition to other options in terms of our own energy supply”.
“[If] you do want to use more renewables, you need more gas, because when you are moving from peak to off-peak you actually need gas to facilitate that, so this plan makes perfect sense to us,” she said.
Mr Morrison would not explain how the deal would reduce carbon emissions, but repeated his line that Australia would “meet and beat” its target to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.
“We’re going to keep meeting and beating our targets. How do I know we’re going to do that? Because we do deals like this,” Mr Morrison said.
“You want to get emissions down, you’ve got to get the gas. You want to get emissions down, you’ve got to invest in the technology. That’s what actually changes things. That’s what actually delivers climate action.”
Ms Berejiklian ruled out any change to the state’s existing policy positions, saying the extra 70 petajoules would be sourced from one of three projects in the pipeline. They are the controversial Santos Narrabri gas project, located in the Pilliga forest in north-west NSW, or the import terminals at Port Kembla and Newcastle.
“One of those three things will satisfy our arrangements. So the beauty of this deal for NSW is we don’t need to change our policy positions,” Ms Berejiklian said.
But NSW Labor energy spokesman Adam Searle said each of the potential sources of new gas supply were uncertain.
“The promise of increased gas supply is a sham,” he said.
“The Port Kembla gas import terminal has partial planning approval but no definite decision on investment and Newcastle’s proposed gas import terminal does not yet have any planning approval.”
Santos submitted its final development application to NSW government in 2017, but the project has been stalled by a long assessment process and ongoing opposition from community opponents.
Lisa Visentin is a state political reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.