A SOLAR-POWERED ECONOMIC RECOVERY PLAN WILL GROW JOBS FOR TERRITORIANS
The Environment Centre NT is calling on the NT Government to prioritise renewable energy projects and expertise in its new Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission. The NT Government must grasp this opportunity to draw on world-class solar resources and rebuild the NT economy. By backing renewable energy initiatives we can create thousands of jobs and support the aspirations of our communities.
As the Commission devises a strategy to rebuild our economies, we urge the Chief Minister to ensure that appropriate expertise from the renewable energy field is part of the discussion. This will enable the Commission to grasp the potential of renewable energy to create skilled, high-wage jobs for Territorians, deliver cheaper, cleaner energy to our communities and attract high-value industry to the Territory.
Renewable energy has already played an important role in stimulating our economy by employing a large number of tradespeople quickly and local demand and investment interest in solar remains strong.
A number of renewable energy projects stand ready to create immediate jobs in a safe, sustainable industry that enjoys strong social license. For example, a $100m privately funded, solar energy farm at Livingston south of Darwin is shovel ready for the first quarter of 2021. This follows smaller projects already underway at Batchelor and Manton Dam.
The government-commissioned Roadmap to Renewables report proposed a series of key actions that would provide economic stimulus in the near term and were approved by the government. These actions can be rolled out quickly and drive a recovery plan on a scale that will employ local Territorians and move the Territory toward the government's renewable energy target of 50% by 2030.
It is vital Chief Minister Gunner’s "Team Territory" includes experts with a sound understanding of renewable energy – both as a low-cost, efficient, locally abundant energy source and the vast economic potential of a renewable energy-powered NT, including sparking a vibrant manufacturing sector with export opportunities in energy infrastructure, zero-carbon manufacturing and minerals processing. An obvious choice would be the Expert Panel Chair of the roadmap report.
Compared to the long lead times of gas projects and their vulnerability to global price shocks (that are already impacting NT petroleum exploration), solar farms and renewable energy infrastructure can be rolled out quickly. Screwdriver-ready works or proposals that would be simple to execute include:
- Accelerating the government’s Rooftop Solar for Schools program
- Expanding the government’s Home and Business Battery Scheme and introducing a time-of-use tariff to drive further uptake of solar and battery
- Installation of solar and storage backup for all critical state infrastructure, such as police facilities, fire stations and telecommunications
- Installation of solar on public housing and low-income rental housing
- Granting Major Project status to projects such as the Livingston solar farm to remove institutional barriers and move toward construction
Other long-overdue works that will also attract investment into the NT and hasten our economic recovery include: a feasibility study of a high-voltage direct cable transmission line between Darwin and Alice Springs to facilitate regional solar generation projects; community renewable energy projects in regional and remote areas; a reverse auction process for renewable energy power purchase agreements; structuring the ancillary services market in the Darwin – Katherine Interconnected System.
The best policies always offer co-benefits and in supporting the NT solar industry not only do we create jobs but we also:
- Manufacture our own energy security - by capturing and circulating solar energy within NT borders we buffer Territorians from the chaos of global energy markets
- Build a low wholesale cost of electricity future that can underpin broad-scale economic development founded on low-cost electricity – jobs and economic recovery
- Reduce energy bill stress and speed up the economic recovery of thousands of NT households and businesses whose incomes have been impacted by Covid-19
Prioritising a renewable energy economic recovery is work that can be achieved by a growing local workforce. It will be more immune from future public health shocks that have ground FIFO operations to a halt.
Across the Territory, our community has stepped up in the face of the unprecedented challenge presented by Covid-19. Remote communities have acted early to protect themselves, while our cities and townspeople have taken the advice to stay home to stay safe and supported one another through such difficult times.
The Northern Territory that emerges from this crisis will look considerably different from the one we started this year with. And as we emerge, we have an incredible opportunity to reshape our communities and industries for the better and make a long-term investment into a stronger, more sustainable and secure Territory.
We encourage any Northern Territory company, organisation or association that would like to officially endorse this letter to contact [email protected]