Key Points:

The NSW Renewable Energy Action Plan maps out 24 steps towards attracting investment, community support and expertise in renewable energy projects in NSW.

The New South Wales Government has published the final version of its Renewable Energy Action Plan (REAP), which has been in development since July 2011. REAP supports the national renewable energy target of 20% of energy being from renewable sources by 2020, mapping out 24 steps towards attracting investment, community support and expertise in renewable energy projects in NSW.

Building on the draft REAP, the final version includes more of a focus on the availability of information, preparing a smart meter policy, and supporting research into smart grid, wave and tidal, geothermal-assisted and bioenergy technologies.

The Renewable Energy Advocate is appointed

With the REAP came the appointment of NSW's first Renewable Energy Advocate, Amy Kean. Ms Kean's role will be to support the facilitation of renewable energy projects by working with communities, industry, investors, innovators and government.

In particular, the REAP indicates that the Renewable Energy Advocate will be responsible for:

  • assisting with network connection issues (especially in relation to an advocated uptake of mid-scale solar PV technology);
  • creating an online information portal to assist project development; and
  • leveraging Commonwealth programs to encourage research and development in renewable energy technologies in NSW.

REAP and wind energy

As part of the goal of attracting renewable energy investment to NSW, REAP makes it part of goal 2 (to build community support) to implement the NSW wind energy guidelines, which were released in draft in 2011 and are now in the process of being finalised.

The draft guidelines proposed a ban on wind turbines within 2km of residences, unless there is written agreement from relevant landowners, or it is permitted via a "gateway" process (by being granted a Site Compatibility Certificate). The Clean Energy Council's community engagement guidelines for the wind industry are intended to help involve communities more effectively in the development process.

REAP's interaction with the Energy Efficiency Action Plan

REAP is intended to be complemented by an Energy Efficiency Action Plan (EEAP), which was released in August 2013.

The EEAP commits to supporting 220,000 low-income households to reduce energy use by up to 20% in the next year, to reducing 16,000 gigawatt hours of energy and to retrofit 50% of commercial buildings to a 4 star NABERS energy and water rating by 2020. These goals are intended to be achieved through 30 identified actions, many of which will be picked up in a review of the NSW Energy Efficiency Scheme which is intended to enhance its reach and impact.

The EEAP highlights the desire to investigate options for demand-side participation, gas efficiency, and private finance for residential energy efficiency upgrades.

What's next?

The two plans will be implemented under the guidance of the NSW Economic Development Framework, which was published in December 2012.

However, the likely changes to Commonwealth climate change policy will necessitate a review of these new plans to ensure that the proposed actions complement the new national outlook.