THE Hunter Region has been left off the NSW government's ambitious $32-billion renewable energy infrastructure "roadmap". The policy unveiled yesterday plans to use pumped hydro to store and deliver enough solar and wind generated power to replace the Hunter's four coal-fired power stations if they close as expected by 2035.
The Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap aims to encourage $32 billion worth of private spending on renewable technology over 20 years, with incentives for energy businesses to set up in three "renewable energy zones": the Central West, New England and South West NSW.
A 58-page report explaining the policy says that without "cheap, reliable and green energy", industries such as steel, aluminium and ammonia (all made in the Hunter) are "at risk due to global competition and investor pressure to de-carbonise".
Asked why the Hunter was not declared a renewable zone, Energy Minister Matt Kean said the region was "a prime location to investigate for a future renewable energy zone, given its strong renewable resources and transmission links".
"We are happy to work with any community in the state that wants to host a REZ and unlock the roadmap's economic benefits," Mr Kean said.
But energy unions and ALP state politicians criticised the decision to leave the Hunter off the "roadmap", although the Labor opposition says it supports the plan in general.
Opposition energy spokesperson Adam Searle said Labor was "conscious that places such as the Hunter should not be left out".
"We support the policy in principle, but we have concerns over the detail," Mr Searle said.
"We want to make sure the Hunter is not left out of any investment boom, and that a fair share of the resultant jobs and manufacturing must be part of the legislation."