Greens MP Dr John Kaye and candidate for Page, Desley Banks, in Lismore on Friday.
The Greens say the upcoming federal election will have a bearing on how soon the regions and Australia can step out of fossil fuel energy, saying it’s now clear that NSW can generate all of its electricity from renewable sources.
They say if the Greens Party is able to influence voters and candidates, NSW and particularly the north coast could transition to a 100 per cent renewable energy future by 2030 and create an economy far more prosperous than the fossil fuel industry.
Greens NSW MP John Kaye also said in Lismore on Friday that the ‘lack of imagination and inherent conservatism is limiting the way we relate to our resources and may one day cause trade sanctions from advanced countries because of our dependence on dirty resources’.
Dr Kaye was on the north coast last week campaigning with local candidates Desley Banks (Page) and Dawn Walker (Richmond), countering pre-election campaigning by the gas industry claiming renewables are only a ‘boutique energy supply’.
Dr Kaye believes that the argument over whether renewable energy can power us is over.
‘The science is now in, NSW can generate all of its electricity from sunshine and wind, crop waste and energy efficiency,’ Dr Kaye told Echonetdaily.
‘The target of 100 per cent renewables is very realistic. The University of NSW published a study earlier this year where they reran the last two years of south eastern Australia entirely on wind and solar, crop waste and energy efficiency. The lights stayed on, trains kept running, commerce kept going and everything worked fine.
‘Beyond Zero Emissions through a University of Melbourne study, came to the same conclusion using different kinds of renewable energy.
‘The science says very clearly that Australia can be 100 per cent renewable, and that is just with existing technology, with new technologies it will be even easier.
‘We don’t need to continue to emit 60m tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum from our coal-fired power stations to keep the lights on and to maintain our standard of living’.
Australia has an incredible appetite for energy and fear surrounding a shift in energy sources.
‘Energy efficiency is not about sitting in the dark,’ Dr Kaye said. ‘It is about building and living in houses that for example use passive solar energy, buy appliances that use less power and also being wiser about when we use energy. It can be done and people will not lose their ability to have a good life’.
The initiative of a 100 per cent renewables future encompasses more than just saving the planet – the economy may be resurrected too.
‘Having a planet in 20 years that can support human life is a good reason for doing things but building a stronger economy is also possible,’ said Dr Kaye.
‘A sharing economy that shares out the jobs, the wealth and makes sure that everyone can participate.
‘I don’t believe that the coal and gas economy does that. They concentrate jobs into a small number of hands, they concentrate wealth and send it overseas and they take wealth away from our children and grandchildren and give it to shareholders of large multinational corporations right now.
‘This is the worst kind of economy and is what we have now. It needs to start with a love of planet, people and place. This can be translated into a sharing structure and access to the great wealth of our country.
‘If we make the transition now we not only avoid the damage we’re doing to the planet, we also create lots of jobs, particularly here on the north coast,’ said Dr Kaye.
‘The north coast community has shown an enthusiasm for renewable energy and there are a lot of innovations happening here. The area has enormous potential, both human and energy.
‘We are currently squandering tens of thousands of new jobs that could be created by making that transition. We don’t need to have young people unemployed, they could be working in exciting, engaging and interesting jobs in the new renewable energy future’.
Running Greens member for Page Desley Banks believes the north coast is in a fantastic position.
‘We have reached a tipping point as far as global warming goes,’ she told Echonetdaily. ‘The north coast is in a position to lead the way for other communities, we have the community’s support.’
‘We already have over 16,000 people with solar on their rooftops and more with solar hot water.
‘We were able to delay the building of the TransGrid line from Tenterfield to Lismore because we do not need that much electricity anymore.
‘We have come to realise that we can no longer live in a fossil fuel age. I am very positive about the move to a future in renewable energy and that is why I am standing for The Greens and doing things like trying to stop the gas fields taking over the northern rivers’.
Ms Banks believes that although the other local candidates are saying they are personally against the future of fossil fuels, particularly coal seam gas in the northern rivers, the position of their party does not back that up.
‘The parties need to be prepared to stand up against fossil fuels and build the development of renewable energy. The government can make these decisions so pressure needs to be put on them.
‘I would be expecting Janelle Saffin (Labor) and Kevin Hogan (National) to be putting pressure on their parties to go towards renewables.
‘If they are saying they are against the coal seam gas development then they must be prepared to cross the floor.’
The Greens’ campaign proposes that a transition by NSW to 100 per cent renewables is possible, affordable and is essential and the future of a fossil fuel industry will sooner or later hit a dead end.
Lack of consistent government policy and support inhibits such a transition and Dr Kaye often receives ‘immature’ responses from both parties when renewables are mentioned in parliament.
‘The idea that you can cut greenhouse gas emissions by five per cent and pretend that you are doing something useful for the planet and something useful to create jobs is laughable,’ Dr Kaye said. ‘That is the target of the two major parties.
‘Our view (The Greens) is that we should be setting the year 2030 as a target year to close down all of our coal fired power stations and gas fired power stations.’
Selling gas as a transition and clean energy source ire’s Dr Kaye.
‘Gas is a greenhouse loser, why would we spend a whole lot of money making the transition to gas when at best it halves the greenhouse gas emissions and with coal seam gas it would probably increase the greenhouse gas emissions.
‘This federal election is about defeating the myth that gas is a clean fuel, it is not clean at the source and it is not clean when it is burnt.’
The Greens Campaign for 100 per cent renewables does not include energy for transport, yet.
‘Electricity is the biggest single cause of greenhouse gas emissions, which is largely why communities are being thrust into the coal seam gas wars,’ Dr Kaye said.
‘Making our electricity supply 100 per cent renewable is the first step before making our transport, which is the second biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, 100 per cent renewable.
‘We should start where it is easiest, we have technologies that are available, mature and have come down in price.’
Dr Kaye also criticised a documentary televised last week on ABC TV by Dick Smith advocating for nuclear energy.
‘Nuclear energy is expensive and dangerous. There is not enough uranium to go around, why should NSW take the risk of being involved in the uranium cycle with its connection to its dangerous nuclear waste and the connection to the nuclear bombs industry,’ he said.
‘We know our energy needs can be done 100 per cent with safer sources.’
Dr Kaye finds visits to the northern rivers refreshing and hopeful, particularly the entertainment.
‘I work in parliament which at times can be very depressing. The music I have heard today reminds us of the human spirit and of the hope that is out there.
‘Articulation of that hope is what drives the election for people like Desley, to show us that it can be different and a whole lot better,’ said Dr Kaye.
Ms Banks welcomed yesterday’s announcement of the election and says the state and Australia should move quickly to a renewable energy future.
‘We must quickly phase out fossil fuel generation and invest in wind power, solar technology and energy efficiency,’ she said.
‘The technology already exists to build a renewable energy system that can create tens of thousands of new jobs and slash carbon emissions.
‘It’s possible, affordable and essential. We will stand up to mining companies and protect our precious water supplies, farming lands for our future food security and our rich biodiversity and natural environment here on the Northern Rivers.’