Renewable map must protect ag

Roadmap to renewables must protect agriculture

Opinion
Wind turbines on the southern tablelands. Photo: Canberra Times

Wind turbines on the southern tablelands. Photo: Canberra Times

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We need to ensure there are replacement forms of energy generation to meet the projected shortfall.

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With many of NSW's coal-fired power plants projected to reach the end of their technical lives over the next two decades, we need to ensure there are replacement forms of energy generation to meet the projected shortfall.

Reports by the Australian Energy Market Operator indicate that our most 'economical' energy future involves using existing generation infrastructure until end of life, while progressively replacing retiring generators with a mix of wind, solar and pumped hydro.

The NSW Government's response to this is the recently released 20-year 'Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap'.

It is designed to modernise the state's electricity system and build greater capacity for transmission of renewable energy, centring on the development of three Renewable Energy Zones in the Central West, south west and New England areas.

As a sector highly exposed to climatic changes and a major energy user, agriculture has an interest in lowering emissions and maintaining energy security.

NSW Farmers' policy supports a transition to renewables, however, we must also ensure we have strategic planning that understands the implications for primary production when changing land use.

While large regional centres may be identified as the ideal location for clusters of renewables developments, these centres have formed around some of our most productive farming land.

With the global population forecast to exceed 9 billion people by 2050, and demand for food and fibre on track to increase by 60pc in that timeframe, it's vital that we are able to map and protect our most important agricultural assets.

As with any major development, there will be reservations about changes in land-use.

The planning process must hold proponents to the highest possible standard and involve active communication with local landholders to design and deliver the solution.

Engage early and engage often.

Ensure landholders and communities have a voice to resolve any concerns for land use impact, work with farmers to turn challenges into opportunities so that energy generation and agriculture can both deliver a strong economic return to their local communities as well as the whole of NSW.

- NSW Farmers

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