The Greens say jobs and energy independence in the region are under attack by the Liberal/National parties despite a substantial take-up of solar on the north coast.
This week, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that investment in renewable energy had plunged 88 per cent in Australia in 2014, largely in response to the hostility of the Abbott government to renewable energy and their policy to reduce the Renewable Energy Target.
But 20 per cent of households in the northern rivers already have solar panels on their roofs and the Greens say the industry is still in a ‘growth phase’ worldwide, with more effective batteries allowing residents to become independent from the grid.
Greens candidate for the state seat of Ballina, Tamara Smith, said that investment in the renewable energy sector could be providing new jobs across northern NSW, but instead the government had caused ‘a collapse in business confidence’.
‘Clean energy is a strong part of the northern rivers’ economic future and we need to realise its economic potential to create local jobs and reduce emissions,’ she said.
‘With affordable storage solutions, like lithium batteries coming into reality, consumers will have less reliance on the energy grid,’ Ms Smith added.
The Greens said the coalition’s love affair with fossil fuels was more about shoring up their mates than a realistic policy for the future.
‘The Liberal-National government’s attempts to undermine the Renewable Energy Target, which helps subsidise rooftop solar and reduce the wholesale cost of electricity, is harming investment in regional economies,’ Ms Smith said.
‘Northern NSW could be a powerhouse for clean energy, but right now the National and Liberal Parties are deliberately wrecking the sector to favour destructive coal and coal seam gas,’ she added.
Greens NSW regional development spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham, said ‘billions of dollars’ and associated jobs in the renewable energy sector ‘are being lost to the detriment of regional economies’.
‘The National Party needs to put aside its political ideology and recognise the economic opportunity that the renewable energy sector presents for regional NSW.
‘The Greens support a state-based renewable energy scheme that would kick in if there is any change to the federal Renewable Energy Target, providing security for companies to make investments in the sector,’ Mr Buckingham said.