Matt Kean

Requirements for electric vehicle charging infrastructure in all new NSW homes will be likely under the state government’s new net zero plan released last week.

The NSW government wants to cut the state’s emissions by 35 per cent by 2030 under a new plan, pouring almost $2 billion over 10 years into a series of programs.

The ultimate goal is to get to net zero but the government is planning ahead in 10-year increments because “rapid changes in technology make identifying the lowest cost path to net zero difficult”.

Critically, the plan will create almost 2400 jobs and attract over $11.6 billion of investment over the next 10 years, mainly in regional and rural areas.

Transport is NSW’s second biggest source of emissions (28 MtCO?-e), which is why the government wants to take advantage of the falling price of electric vehicles (forecast to reach upfront price parity with traditional combustion engine vehicles from 2024).

But one of the big barriers to EV uptake is the absence of infrastructure – almost 30 per cent of households do not have access to off-street parking where they could charge an electric vehicle.

A new investment program will see money funnelled into fast electric vehicle charging infrastructure and, in addition, the government wants the National Construction Code (NCC) and NSW Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) amended so that all new buildings can charge EVs.

“This could involve requiring new buildings to provide electrical conduits and wiring to make it easy to install electric vehicle charging equipment.”

The government also supports amendments to licensing and parking regulations to support EV take up.

“By rolling out fast and conveniently located charging infrastructure across the state and making new buildings electric vehicle ready, more NSW motorists will be encouraged to purchase an electric vehicle regardless of whether they live in their own home, a tenanted property or an apartment with or without a private car space.”

Funding will also go towards transitioning fleets, such as car rental companies, car share companies and local councils, to all-electric.

Buildings have been flagged as a priority area to reduce emissions. The NSW government will advocate for the expansion of NABERS rating scheme to other major building types including schools, retirement living, industrial warehouses, retail tenancies and supermarkets.

The government will also be supportive of improving the NCC and BASIX to provide a pathway to deliver cost-effective, low emissions outcomes for residential, commercial and public buildings.

It’s also committed to embedding sustainable building material standards and targets into the design and construction of major NSW government infrastructure projects, and growing the market for sustainable building materials.

An Australia-first green finance strategy

In what NSW claims is an Australian first for a government, it will develop a green investment strategy will also be developed to manage climate risks that the sector is waking up to, and “seize opportunities so that NSW businesses can build a competitive edge”.

Three-pronged approach to bring electricity emissions down

Electricity generation is the culprit behind most of the state’s emissions (51 MtCO?-e), which is why the NSW and Commonwealth governments will fast-track the delivery of NSW’s first “renewable energy zone”. Planned for the Central-West, New England and SouthWest, the zones are designed to connect investors with communities that are looking to diversify their local industries into renewable energy.

The regional-job-creating initiative (up to 2000 construction jobs each year) will involve expanding transmission infrastructure into those regions to open new parts of the grid for wind and solar farms.

Demand management features strongly as a strategy for improving the reliability of the grid. Called the Energy Security Safeguard (Safeguard), the program will support the uptake of demand shifting and peak reduction technologies, like smart pool pumps and household batteries, and activities that help businesses to reduce demand on the network such as swapping grid gas with onsite biomass.

It will also double down on energy efficiency, with the likes of the Solar for Low Income Households program flagged for possible expansion.

In concert, the three programs are expected to reduce household bills by $40 per year.

Manufacturing, farming and coal also part of the picture

Attention is shifting onto the emissions-intensive manufacturing sector and it hasn’t been overlooked by the NSW government. Although there’s now low emissions options for all types of manufacturing, including cement, steel and aluminium, the cost of the capital upgrades is often a barrier.

Manufacturers will now have access to a $450 million “Emissions Intensity Reduction Program” to pay for the new low emissions equipment.

It will also be available to farmers looking to transition away from fuel-based equipment, such as irrigation pumps.

The government is also supporting high-emitting sectors such as the meat and livestock industries to decarbonise (it’s already invested over $29 million in research to help the primary industries adapt to climate change).

It’s planning to launch a new program that supports primary producers and landowners to commercialise low emissions technologies( such has the methane-busting seaweed, presumably) and maximise their revenue from carbon offset programs.

The coal industry also appears to have a place in NSW’s low carbon future, with a “coal innovation program” to be launched to reduce emissions from the mining and use of coal. Capturing “waste methane” to be used onsite or instead of gas in homes is one suggested option.

The NSW government will also set a target of net zero emissions from organic waste by 2030 to stop food waste rooting in landfill and emitting methane.

A plan well-received by most

Green building groups such as the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council have thrown support behind the plan.

“It is a positive, forward looking plan that brings businesses and consumers on the net-zero journey by seeking to capture the jobs and investment opportunities ahead,” GBCA CEO Davina Rooney said.

“An explicit focus on buildings reflects the considerable opportunity highlighted through this sector: to take advantage of existing technologies while increasing business productivity and driving down energy costs for households.

ASBEC’s executive director, Suzanne Toumbourou, is also impressed with NSW’s leadership.

“At a time when the resilience of our communities is at the forefront of our minds, it is heartening to see the NSW government taking a leadership role in addressing the climate emergency; offering a bright vision amidst the current pall.

“As Australia’s largest economy, there is enormous potential for NSW to nudge the entire country towards a more climate-friendly trajectory.”

The plan has also got the support of the Property Council. The NSW executive director, Jane Fitzgerald, said that “it’s good to see Minister Kean and the NSW government lead and produce a net zero plan that reduces emissions while still ensuring a strong pipeline of investment, economic growth and jobs.”

Ms Fitzgerald pointed out that buildings are a quarter of our emissions and consume over half of our electricity, which is why Australian property companies have been “global leaders” on sustainability.

She said that the PCA will await further details around what amendments to the NCC and BASIX to ensure new buildings are electric vehicle ready. “However, the industry welcomes the clear direction and plan put in place by the NSW government.”

The Energy Efficiency Council also applauded the plan, stating that it “sets a new benchmark for action from other states”.

Energy Efficiency Council CEO Luke Menzel said that the plan was smart because it “isn’t just an environmental policy, it’s an economic one.”

“It is a blueprint for cutting the emissions of existing industries, and capturing the opportunities of a net zero economy.”

Greenpeace welcomed the “step in the right direction” but its Australia Pacific spokesperson Jonathan Moylan said its ambition fell short.

“Taking steps to reduce emissions is good news for the economy and health, although New South Wales needs to double its ambition to play its part in limiting global warming to close to 1.5 degrees,” he said.

“Taking stronger action like accelerating the shift to clean and affordable renewable energy to address the causes of climate change will lead to more jobs, cleaner air and less preventable disease. It’s good to see state governments stepping in to fill the climate void left by the Morrison government.

“We now need a race to the top on reducing emissions from burning coal, oil and gas that fuel extreme weather events like this summer’s bushfires.”

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