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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8068

Mr COMBET (Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change) (9:35 PM) —I understand the issues that have been raised by the member for Lyne and respect his contribution. I did make the comments in introducing the proposed amendment that coalmine waste gas is not a renewable energy source and it has been defined in accordance with these amendments as an eligible energy source. There are very important public policy reasons for dealing with this issue in this particular way. The New South Wales GGAS scheme—introduced, I think, the better part of a decade ago by Premier Carr—is what could be described as a baseline and credit scheme. It has operated to encourage investment in some greenhouse gas abatement activities, and one of the activities that attracted such investment, consistent with the opportunities generated by the GGAS scheme, has been in the area of coalmine waste gas power generation.

There are a number of companies involved in this activity. Of the two principal ones, both of them developed a business plan and made their investments on the basis of GGAS being in operation. They account for some energy generation, following the capture of coalmine methane gas, which has contributed to the grid. However, their business plan is in significant part contingent upon the value of the certificates which are generated under GGAS for the abatement of greenhouse gas that they are engaged in. With the implementation of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the renewable energy legislation, it is clear that there is a positive public policy purpose for making an amendment that the government is moving on this occasion in order to ensure that on a transitional basis those operations are able to continue. We have confined the eligibility for this transitional treatment under this proposed amendment to the year 2020 and we have specified that it is on the basis of 2008 levels of energy production by the existing coalmine waste gas generators. We have quantified the amount of power generation that would qualify for renewable energy certificates so that it operates up to the year 2020 in a defined production sense. In addition to that, in order to preserve and respect the renewable energy target that is contained in the bill—that is, 20 per cent of the electricity supplied by the year 2020 coming from renewable sources, or 45,000 gigawatt hours—the coalmine waste gas generation production which qualifies for renewable energy certificates under this amendment will operate in addition to the established target.

The government understands the issues that have been raised by the member for Lyne. We carefully considered all of these matters and adopted this as the most efficient public policy response. It is a transitional arrangement for the New South Wales GGAS, in effect, and we think it is the most efficient manner for dealing with it. In the overall scheme of things the expanded renewable energy target, with the support of the state and territory governments, is consolidating into a single national renewable energy arrangement. That is, I think, a particularly important thing. To reduce it to a pretty basic level, at stake here are 300 jobs—those of the people involved in this power generation. In my portfolio capacity, in my capacity as a local member and in my capacity as a minister in this government, I can assure you that we are going to support those jobs. We think we are doing it in an appropriate way. I move:

That the question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Original question agreed to.