Chris Hartcher, NSW Energy Minister, "guaranteed" that the plan would be fulfilled without extra costs being put upon the public. Photo: David Mariuz
THE NSW government has promised to triple the amount of energy generated by wind turbines and solar panels in NSW over the next eight years at no extra cost to the public.
Its draft ''renewable energy action'' plan confirms its commitment to a 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020, up from about 8 per cent today, but claims this can be done mainly with money from private investors.
The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, said last year that it was his ''personal view'' that no more wind farms be built in NSW but, under his new plan, the number of turbines will likely increase tenfold over the next few years.
The plan itself has been delayed for months, partly over the issue of wind farms, with some in cabinet believing that turbines pose unspecified health risks to people that live close to them.
Some in the renewable power industry were cautiously optimistic about the government's stance yesterday, while Labor and the Greens said there was little in the plan to suggest it would achieve its target.
In the draft version published yesterday, there was no firm decision on streamlining the wind farm planning process. Strict guidelines keeping wind farms distant from inhabited properties, which are seen by the renewable energy industry as holding back development, will remain in place for the time being.
The plan, which was overseen by the parliamentary secretary Rob Stokes, said that by 2020 wind energy would replace coal as the cheapest power source in NSW.
The Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, ducked questions on how many new wind turbines were required, saying the intention would be to follow the ''least cost'' path to renewable energy.
Wind power generates about 652 gigawatt hours of energy in NSW but that would be lifted to something closer to 8000 gigawatt hours under the government's plan - which means thousands more turbines dotting rural landscapes.
Mr Hartcher said he ''guaranteed'' that the plan would be fulfilled without extra costs being put on the public.
The plan - comprising 28 separate ''action points'' designed to stimulate renewable power - also promises an overhaul of all existing energy efficiency programs, more support for community-owned renewable projects.
The solar bonus scheme, under which tariffs are paid to people who generate their own electricity from rooftop panels, is likely to remain at its current low rate.
''The NSW government remains relentlessly hostile to renewable energy,'' the opposition environment spokesman, Luke Foley, said.
''If the NSW government really wants to support the growth of renewable energy, it should drop the planning guidelines that are designed to chronically handicap wind energy in this state.''
The Greens MP John Kaye said the plan had ''no hope of achieving 20 per cent of the state's generation from renewables by 2020''.
The draft plan is open to public submissions until October 26.