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Pumped hydro plan will help to maintain Lithgow’s place as an energy hub

The Nature Conservation Council has welcomed plans to create a new hydro-electricity facility on the edge of Lithgow in the state’s central west. 

“Energy Australia’s plans to establish a pumped hydro-electricity facility near Lithgow will help the city maintain its position as a key player in the state’s electricity sector,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“This is the latest in a series of exciting developments for Lithgow over the past 12 months, including plans for a grid-scale big battery and an eco-precinct on the old Wallerawang power site, and a push to establish an electric bus manufacturing plant in the city. 

“These are the sorts of initiatives Lithgow needs to prosper as the economy moves past coal-fired power to clean, renewable wind and solar.” 

Energy Australia proposes to pump water from Lake Lyell to a reservoir it plans to build high on the side of Mount Walker, west of Lithgow.  

During times of peak power demand, water will be released from the reservoir to drive electricity turbines before returning to Lake Lyell. 

Recent developments and announcements for Lithgow 

  • Big battery. Neon is building a big battery on the site of the decommissioned Wallerawang power station site. [1]  
  • Eco-precinct. An eco-precinct is also planned for the Wallerawang power station site. [2]  
  • Bus manufacturing. The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils is lobbying to establish an electric bus manufacturing plant in Lithgow. [3]  
  • Pumped hydro. Energy Australia announces plans for pumped hydro.  [4] 


[1] Neoen plans massive 500MW big battery west of Sydney, 11-1-2021, RenewEconomy  

[2] Bettergrow's exclusive agreement for Wallerawang Power Station site extended, 3-4-19, Lithgow Mercury.  

[3] Why regional NSW could emerge as a hotspot for electric bus manufacturing, 8-10-21, The Driven  

Electric Dreams: Local EV bus manufacture needs investment vision, 8-2-21, Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils  

[4] EnergyAustralia excited about pumped hydro possibility near Mt Piper, 3-6-21, Energy Australia  


Kean and Bowen headline Nature Conservation Council business breakfast

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean and Federal Shadow Environment Minister Chris Bowen were keynote speakers at a Nature Conservation Council Business Forum at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney this morning.

The sold-out event, titled Risks and Opportunities in a Changing Climate, drew 190 business representatives keen to explore the opportunities presented by the move to a post-carbon economy.

Mr Kean said: “Green is now mainstream. The capital is green, with traditional funding sources now demanding that businesses have a credible path to lower emissions as a condition of credit.

“This greening of capital is affecting the state debt market, too. Delivering cheap green power into the supply chain of every business in NSW is an urgent priority.

“It will help the business community to remain internationally competitive and play its part in responding to the challenges of climate change.”

Mr Bowen said: “The moral case for action on climate change is so strong it doesn’t need to be our focus any more.

“What needs to be our focus now … is the economic case for action on climate change in our national interest, in our country’s interest.

“Not because Joe Biden asked us to; not because Boris Johnson asked us to; but because it is in the interests of our country … and our economy.”

Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said: “The business community, like the wider Australian community, sees the economic potential of new-energy businesses and they are looking for the sort of leadership being provided by Minister Kean and Mr Bowen.

“At the Nature Conservation Council we are in the business of changing hearts and minds.

“We’ve launched this business breakfast series because we think our work of grassroots organising, of talking to Australians in their own communities about nature and climate action, and building the capacity in communities is not just good lefty activism, it is also good business.

“The business community is increasingly seeing the work we do and the agendas that we are setting as more than morally worthy, but also aligned to their strategic interests.”



$600M should be spent on batteries, not gas

The $600 million the Morrison government plans to spend on a new gas peaking power plant at Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley would be much better spent on battery storage.  

The government announced today [1] that it would spend more than half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ hard-earned money on a gas plant that will probably operate only one week a year. [2] 

That sort of money would buy seven batteries the size of the one the South Australian government installed to firm its energy supply in 2017,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. [3] 

Instead of lumping taxpayers with a $600 million white elephant, they could leave a legacy of more than 700 MW of clean, on demand capacityAs a practical engineering solution, the government’s announcement it just doesn’t add up.   

This announcement is nakedly political, timed to occur just a few days before the Upper Hunter by-election. 

Once again, the federal Coalition has put short-term political opportunism and the interests of their fossil fuel donors ahead of the long-term interests of Australians and the climate. 

Scott Morrison is spending money on fossil fuels like a drunken sailor. The problem is that taxpayers and the climate will be left with the hangover long after he last left politics.”  


[1] Federal government will spend $600 million on new Kurri Kurri gas plant in the NSW Hunter Valley, ABC, 18-5-21 

[2] Hunter Valley gas plant ‘would only operate a week a year’, SMH, 13-5-21 

[3] The original installation in 2017 was the largest lithium-ion battery in the world at 129 MWh and 100 MW. 


Climate, air quality, deforestation and river health should be top of the agenda for Upper Hunter by-election candidates

The Nature Conservation Council urges all candidates in the Upper Hunter by-election to put climate change, air quality, the protection of wildlife habitat, and river health at the top of their agendas.

“Climate change is the number-one economic and environmental challenge facing communities of the Upper Hunter and Liverpool Plains, so all candidates need to make clear what they will do for the region on climate,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“Any candidate who does not have climate change at the top of their platform is not really representing the true interests of the community.

“All candidates need a plan for meaningful action to cut emissions, and ensure that Hunter communities have a realistic pathway to new economic opportunities in a low carbon economy.

“Change is coming to the Upper Hunter, one way or another. These changes could be very positive, or they could be very negative – it all depends on how our politicians and governments handle it.

“So far, the major parties are putting the Upper Hunter on the road to ruin by refusing to deal frankly with climate change and the decline of the coal industry.

“The coal and electricity generation industries in the Upper Hunter contribute more than any other electorate to climate change in NSW, so it must play a leading role in slashing our state’s emissions.

“It is not fair to expect people in this region to carry the burden of that alone, which is why we are calling on the NSW Government to establish a Community and Industry Transition Fund and Transition Authority.”

Mr Gambian said candidates must also advocate strongly to improve very poor air quality in some parts of the electorate, and support measures to reverse the decline in native bushland and species under threat from logging and land clearing for mines, farming and urban development.

The Nature Conservation Council calls on all candidates to support the following measures:

Support communities

  • Use coal royalties to create a multi-billion-dollar Community and Industry Support Fund.
  • Establish a Community and Industry Support Authority to collaborate with workers, communities, and industry on Community and Industry Support Plans tailored to different coal communities.

End the expansion of coal and gas

  • Stop releasing farmland and wildlife habitat for coal and gas developments.
    Rescind the recent release of land around Rylstone and Wollar for coal exploration.
  • Stop issuing coal and gas exploration and mining licences in the Upper Hunter, Liverpool Plains and Central West.
  • Ban new coal mines and gas fields.

Improve local air quality

  • Set air quality standards in line with world’s best practice and improve air quality monitoring.
  • Implement an air-pollution reduction strategy across NSW to improve air quality by slashing emissions.
  • Reduce emissions from coal-fired power stations by installing readily available technology, updating pollution licences and improving monitoring.

Protect, restore and reconnect wildlife habitat

  • End native-forest logging, a key driver of the decline of koalas and other forest wildlife.
  • Stop land-clearing for mining, agriculture and urban development.
  • Create a network of revegetated wildlife corridors through the Hunter and Liverpool Plains.
  • End the use of biodiversity offsets, except in exceptional circumstances.
  • Ban the burning of native forests for electricity and reject the proposed recommissioning of Redbank Power Station to burn forest biomass.

Restore rivers and wetlands

  • Mandate environmental flows to keep our rivers healthy.
  • Tighten the water-use monitoring regime to end water theft and give certainty to all water users.
  • Enforce the law regarding floodplain harvesting, and ensure all floodplain harvesting regulations guarantee sustainable water flow for river health and downstream communities.
  • No new dams.

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW is the peak conservation organisation for NSW, representing more than 160 local, regional, state-wide environment organisations.

Biodiversity offsetting in NSW drives habitat loss and super profits for a lucky few

The Nature Conservation Council will today refer to ICAC the sale of biodiversity offset credits in relation to major roadworks in Western Sydney.

Lisa Cox at the Guardian Australia today has revealed more details of windfall profits made by those associated with EcoLogical, a company that advised the government on biodiversity offsets in relation to the proposed M12 motorway and the Northern Road expansion. [1]

“These reports are deeply concerning and undermine public confidence in the whole offsetting system,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.  

“They also raise many unanswered questions about how this scheme is being administered. 

“The community must be satisfied that people who have made huge windfall profits through the sale of biodiversity offset credits did not have access to private reports and other insights that may have given them an unfair advantage. 

“The government must explain who and on what basis credits were issued for the offset sites, how the sites were selected for purchase, and how the prices for those offsets were set.  

“How was it possible for windfall profits to be made by a very small number of people in a very short period of time? 

“We are writing to ICAC today asking it to look into this matter using its powers to investigate matters affecting community confidence in public administration.  Only ICAC can properly investigate, examine and cross-examine all the issues. 

“The problem with commodifying natural assets like water and biodiversity is they inevitably become prey to speculative investors rather than being managed and protected for in public interest. 

“We believe the whole system of offsetting now must be the subject of an urgent review to ensure it does what the public expects -- protects threatened wildlife and bushland in a rigorous and transparent way.”




Wollar is collateral damage in Barilaro's chaotic coal “strategy”

Nationals Leader John Barilaro has thrown the community of Wollar near Mudgee under a coal truck by using a new process to open up land for exploration without consulting the people who live there. [1]

“Wollar already has three massive coal mines on its north-western flank – Ulan, Moolarben and Wilpinjong. The creation of new mines east of Wollar will make the village virtually unliveable,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“Ulan and Wilpinjong continue to have massive impacts on the local community, wildlife and water supplies.

“Opening up the east of the valley for more mining will create a 40km-long death zone through what was a very beautiful part of the state. It’s a crying shame.”

Mr Gambian said the decision to issue exploration licences before consulting affected communities broke the government’s 2014 promise to give communities a say before exploration permits were issued.

“The NSW Government set up the Strategic Release Framework in 2014 to quell public anger about the vast areas of prime farmland and wildlife habitat being destroyed by coal and gas projects,” Mr Gambian said. [2]

“The government boasted at the time that the framework incorporated recommendations of the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Chief Scientist and that it would restore public confidence in the process.

“Under the framework, the community had the right to comment very early in the process through a Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment.

“But the government has removed that right for some communities by introducing a new process called Competitive Allocation, which sidesteps community consultation and goes straight to the issuing of exploration licences.

“It is an outrageous betrayal of community trust. Farmers and communities are yet again collateral damage in the Nationals love affair with big coal.

“And the government’s approach appears to be completely ad hoc. Just up the road at Rylstone, locals are being given the chance to participate in a preliminary assessment of a proposal to open that beautiful area for mining. The government’s approach is cruel and chaotic.”





MEDIA CONTACT: James Tremain | 0419 272 254

Upper Hunter voters deserve honesty and hope

The Nature Conservation Council calls on all candidates in the Upper Hunter by-election to outline a vision of how to help workers and communities deal with the inevitable decline and end of coal mining in the electorate.

“People in the Upper Hunter deserve honesty and hope but the political parties so far are only offering denial and delay,” Nature Conservation Council Acting Chief Executive Jacqui Mumford said.

“Whether you support coal mining or not, market forces, renewables and international pressures are driving its rapid decline.

“Anyone who has been paying attention knows it, including the workers and families of the Upper Hunter.

“So why do the major parties continue to spin fairy tales of an endless coal boom? It is disrespectful and dishonest. 

“Coal mining will probably end sooner than any of us expected just a few years ago.

“This makes it imperative that candidates outline their vision for a diversified economy for the Upper Hunter that can support all the workers and communities through this transition.”

Candidates for the ALP, the Nationals and the Shooters Fishers and Farmers and the leaders of their parties have all come out strongly in support of continuing coal mining. One Nation, which has not yet preselected its candidate, also strongly supports the coal industry.  

Victoria’s Climate Targets are welcome leadership

The Victorian Government’s target to halve climate pollution this decade puts the state at the forefront of Australia’s response to the climate crisis. 

Victoria is leading by example and now it’s up to other states and the Federal Government to catch up.” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

Climate action is most urgently needed in those states where the bulk of Australia’s emissions are being produced — NSW, Victoria and Queensland Mr Gambian said. 

Bushfires, heatwaves and sea level rise will only get worse unless all governments follow the best available science to meet our Paris commitments and help ensure global temperatures do not rise by more than 1.5 degrees 

“That’s going to require much more ambition from all Australian governments, including Victoria. 

Power station site rehabilitation commitments must survive AGL demerger

AGL must guarantee commitments that it made in 2017 to fully rehabilitate its power station sites are honoured by PrimeCo, the new corporate entity set up to manage the company’s dirty energy assets. 

In its 2017 Rehabilitation Report, AGL committed $898 million for the rehabilitation of the Bayswater and Liddell sites in the Hunter Valley. [1]

“The transfer of these power stations to a new corporate entity poses a risk to the Hunter Valley community if rehabilitation falls between the cracks during the transfer,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“AGL has made billions from these highly polluting facilities. Taxpayers must not be left on the hook to pay for the clean-up when the shutters go down on these facilities.

“We call on AGL to explain what mechanisms it will use to guarantee the new company honours existing commitments.

“AGL must also confirm there will be no forced redundancies for power station workers as a result of the demerger.”

Mr Gambian said the corporate restructure that divides AGL’s energy assets into “dirty” and “clean” energy companies did nothing to reduce its climate impact.

“AGL is the nation’s dirtiest climate polluter as owner of the Liddell and Bayswater coal-fired power stations in NSW and the massive Loy Yang A power station in Victoria,” Mr Gambian said.

“This restructure is a branding exercise that ignores the urgent need to reduce the total climate impact of its assets.

“This is a cynical piece of corporate spin. 

“It doesn’t matter how the company structures itself or what it calls itself, the fact remains that these assets will still be doing massive harm to the climate and must close sooner rather than later.”


[1] Rehabilitation: AGL’s approach to rehabilitation of power generation infrastructure, 2017


Power prices will be lower if NSW shoots for 100% clean-energy grid by 2030, report shows

Leading energy research company, RepuTex, has found transitioning the NSW to 100% clean energy by 2030 would deliver consistently lower wholesale power prices than business-as-usual. [1] 

RepuTex found that under the current approach to the energy transition, where the last coal-fired power station closes around 2045, wholesale prices would range between $50MWh and $80MWh over the next decade. 

This was substantially more than $47/MWh to $60/MWh range forecast if NSW transitions more quickly to 100% renewables, where the last coal-fired power station closes in 2030. 

“This report clearly shows that it is technically feasible to make the NSW electricity sector 100% renewable by 2030,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“It also shows that we can do it without affecting power prices or reliability. 

“As we have seen over the past few weeks, renewables have put huge downward pressure on electricity prices and the profitability of companies that run the coal-fired power stations. [2] 

“That pressure will remain until the last coal station closes. It’s no longer a matter of whether this transition will occur, but how fast. 

“The big missing piece is a transition plan for coal communities like those at Lithgow, on the Central Coast and in the Hunter. 

“Governments and the major political parties have completely failed these communities. They have told them fairytales of coal forever and failed to plan the real future that is coming faster than anyone imagined. 

“The report also shows the importance of installing big batteries and completing transmission lines on time to ensure that reliability and low prices is maintained as all five coal-fired power stations retire.”  


RE100 is technically feasible. 

  • Transitioning to RE100 is possible using existing technologies if there is sufficient investment. 
  • Renewable energy generation must grow six-fold from 12 TWh in 2019-20 to 72 TWh in 2030. 
  • Variable renewable energy capacity must grow by 24 GW from roughly 8 GW in 2019-20 to 32 GW in 2030. This requires addition of: 
    • 6,000 MW of distributed PV, and 
    • 18,000 MW of large-scale wind and solar 
  • Storage must grow by over 10,000 MW, including: 
    • Almost 8,000 MW of dispatchable storage (including snowy 2.0). 
    • Almost 3,000 MW of behind-the-meter batteries.  

RE100 would be cost-neutral for consumers. 

  • Short-term annual average wholesale electricity prices are forecast to be below business-as-usual levels. 
  • Average prices will range between a high of $60/MWh after the closure of Liddell in 2023 to a low of $47/MWh as transmission projects fully connect Snowy 2.0, expand the Queensland interconnection and open a new Renewable Energy Zone in New England.  

Barriers to be overcome. 

  • Continuing to attract investment in renewable generation and clean flexible capacity; 
  • Coordinating the phase-out of coal-fired generation with VRE integration and transmission upgrades to maintain supply during the transition. 
  • Developing transmission infrastructure at a pace matching the development of new VRE and storage. 

Policy and investment settings 

New policy and investment settings will be required to overcome the identified barriers, including: 

  • expanded investment targets for clean energy and storage,  
  • a co-ordinated, orderly phase-out of coal-fired facilities, 
  • additional priority transmission infrastructure, and 
  • implementation of the recently legislated Energy Security Target   


[1] Cost and reliability analysis of a Paris-compliant energy transition in NSW, RepuTex, 2020 

[2] Renewable energy could render five of Australia’s remaining coal plants unviable by 2025, 24-2-21, The Guardian.  


About RepuTex  

RepuTex is Australia's leading provider of research, pricing and advisory services for the local energy and environmental markets. 


MEDIA CONTACT: James Tremain | 0419 272 2