2nd Reading Speech

20 November 2018

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE (17:03): I lead for the Opposition on this legislation and, at the outset, I indicate that the Opposition does not oppose the measures that the bill proposes. Over the next 10 to 15 years most of the electricity that we use today comes from coal-fired power stations that will be retired. We need to increase significantly the investment, construction, development and implementation of new renewable energy generating projects. The increase is a definite necessity if we are to have the level of energy supply and security that we have today and if we are to have any chance of bringing the skyrocketing power bills down. As the sources of our power become increasingly renewable—the predominant forms of renewable energy of wind and solar being intermittent in nature—there will be a need for firming technologies. The most developed and reliable form of storage that is readily dispatchable is hydro. Of the world’s stored energy, approximately 97 per cent is in the form of pumped hydro.

Potentially, the proposed Snowy Hydro 2.0 has the capacity to be a major source of new and stored energy which will provide security not just for New South Wales but for Australia more generally. It is uncertain if the proposal will go forward because, as the Minister has indicated, it is not just a matter of having new energy sources built and connected to the grid. There are issues as to whether the transmission system can accommodate a new supply and Snowy Hydro 2.0 falls into this category. It is a matter of engineering—and a matter of record—that in order to realise the value for the community that Snowy Hydro may represent, the transmission system will need to be upgraded to access the energy from where it is physically located.

The Opposition supports a move away from a fossil fuel based economy to one based on renewable energy. To make that more than an aspiration, projects such as Snowy Hydro 2.0 will need to be realised. If Snowy Hydro 2.0 cannot be realised due to geotechnical considerations, cost and the like, other pumped hydro possibilities will need to be examined. I note Professor Andrew Blakers of the Australian National University participated in a study that identified 22,000 potential pumped hydro sites across Australia and nearly 9,000 sites in New South Wales. While Snowy Hydro 2.0 represents a significant opportunity to secure additional energy supply and security, and though it may not be the only way forward, the Opposition will not stand in the way of exploring whether this can be made a reality. In his second reading speech, the Minister noted that this project, if successful, will add nearly 2,000 megawatts of firm dispatchable energy to the National Electricity Market, which is equivalent to approximately 14 per cent of our peak energy demand in New South Wales. If constructed, it would be the third-largest individual generator after Eraring and Bayswater coal-fired power stations.

We support the Snowy Hydro 2.0 project and will not oppose the bill. The bill will enable leases and other approvals needed for the construction and operation of Snowy Hydro 2.0 to be granted under the national parks and wildlife legislation, subject to the project being approved under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. This is needed, it is said, because the national parks and wildlife legislation does not contemplate power generation as a purpose for which a lease can be granted. Under the legislation the Minister for the Environment can consider the objects of the National Parks and Wildlife Act, the management principles for national parks and other matters when negotiating the terms of any lease and other approvals and when considering what conditions to impose. There is also a regulation enabling the power to allow for the modification of the plan and lease-making provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

The bill also gives the Government a right to seek an indemnity from companies if any compensation is payable in relation to native title but it does not affect the operation of Commonwealth native title legislation. I note that The Greens have some concerns about the scope of the legislation and they will be moving some amendments to deal with those concerns. We will listen closely to the debate about the rationale underpinning those amendments and I apprehend that we will support at least some of those amendments. The Hon. Penny Sharpe will also address some of the issues raised by this bill in her contribution. With those short remarks, I indicate that the Opposition will not be opposing the legislation.