NSW could attract $25 billion of investment if it was to spend the money from the sale of the Snowy Mountains Scheme in renewable energy, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW has said.
The state government has agreed to sell its 58 per cent share of the scheme to its federal counterpart for $4.15 billion and has promised to to spend all of the money in regional NSW.
The Nature Council claims backing renewables would bring more jobs and investment to regional NSW while reducing energy prices and lowering the state’s contribution to climate change.
A report from the council found four regions, including the Central West and Far West would benefit, CEO Kate Smolski said.
“The transition from coal and gas to solar, wind and storage will attract $25 billion of investment, the construction of about 2,500 wind turbines and installation of more 42 million solar panels across the state,” Ms Smolski said.
“It’s a big job but making the NSW electricity system 100% renewable is 100% doable. The only thing missing is strong political leadership.”
The Regional Australia Institute said while there was some merit to the idea, it might not benefit all regions fairly, or result in many long-term jobs.
“The government has said it wants to spread the money across the state and there will be some regions that benefit more than others because they were suited to wind, solar and hydro electricity,” RAI general manager of policy and research Dr Kim Houghton said.
Dr Houghton welcomed the news the government would spend all of the money from the sale in regional NSW.
He said the state government was developing a trend of investing money in “economic catalytic projects” in regional NSW.
But while the government might be inclined to look for big-picture projects, Dr Houghton said there was also big benefit to investing in additional education and healthcare resources.
“We’ve already seen the state set aside $1.6 billion from it’s electricity leasing for these type of projects in regional NSW and the aim of that is to get a better quality projects,” he said.
“We have seen the government has a particular interest for bridges, road and rail and other projects where there is a ribbon to cut at the end.
“However our research has found that small towns want ongoing investment into healthcare and education that can have a real long-term impact.”