NSW Labor’s $100-million solar schools promise


Giving last week’s National Press Club address, New South Wales Opposition Leader Michael Daley encouraged Australian students to practice their leadership and take part in public life during Friday’s march to demand that governments #ActOnClimate. Yesterday he announced his party’s pledge to invest $100 million in solar installations to help power the state’s schools.

Australia’s Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), which has for years been advocating for investment in solar energy and climate education, responded positively this morning saying it welcomed the Labor Party’s commitment.

“This announcement is awesome,” said 16-year-old climate striker Aisheeya Huq, who is also a volunteer with the Switched On Schools movement. Huq said on the AYCC site, “Students like myself have been working on implementing solar energy systems within our schools for a while now and it’s incredible to hear that we have a major political party supporting that effort.”

The Labor Party’s solar schools package is one of a PV array of promises made by the Opposition Leader in the lead-up to the State election now only five days away.

It appears to dovetail with Labor’s commitment to power all State Government agencies with 100% renewable energy by 2025, and could help to offset the $800 million plan to install air-conditioning in every classroom as part of Labor’s Cool Schools package.

Labor would also bring the country’s most polluting state in line with other Australian states by setting a renewable energy target. This state first would ensure generation of 50% of the state’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2030; and to aim for 100% renewable electricity generation by 2050.

“The next generation is demanding real action on climate change,” said Daley, referring to the 1.5 million students who turned out worldwide for the #climatestrike on Friday 15 March, 150,000 of whom are reported to have marched in Australian cities and towns.

“Putting solar panels on schools will help students further their knowledge about renewable energy, as well as bring down their school’s power bills and reduce emissions,” declared Daley.

Students participating in the AYCC say they are already suffering from climate change. Nosrat Fareha, who attends Auburn Girls’ School in Western Sydney, said “extreme heat waves” are “having huge effects on our learning”. She urged the Opposition Leader to ensure that, “This solar schools plan should prioritise schools most affected by climate change.”

AYCC Repower our schools research conducted last year in collaboration with the Community Power Agency indicated that installing a 100 kW solar system on every one of NSW 519 public high schools would deliver emissions reductions equivalent to taking 13,000 cars off the road. The NSW Labor plan aims to fund solar on around 350 schools in the state.

Schools Program Director with AYCC, Laura Sykes, has been working with young people in social and environmental justice campaigns for the past eight years, and says, “Labor’s policy commitment has the potential to deliver game-changing results, not just for emissions reduction but also for student learning and wellbeing.”

In the wake of this latest renewable-energy announcement by NSW Labor, the Smart Energy Council compiled a list of climate and energy-related election promises made by the Liberal, Labor and Greens parties to date:

NSW Labor Party

  • At least 50% of the state’s energy sourced from renewables by 2030.
  • 7 gigawatts of large-scale renewables by 2030: 6 GW by reverse auction, 1 GW through a new State-owned corporation (with 4 GW in first term of government);
  • 500,000 new solar homes by 2030, delivered via a $2,200 subsidy;
  • $100 million solar schools package for solar on more than 350 schools;
  • $11 million to train electricians in solar and battery storage;
  • 100% renewables for all State Government agencies by 2025;

NSW Liberal Party

  • No-interest loans for solar and battery storage for 300,000 homes. This includes loans over 10 years of up to $9,000 for a battery system and up to $14,000 for a solar-battery system;
  • Make it easier for strata committees to approve solar panels and batteries for apartment blocks by lowering the voting threshold from 75% to 50%;
  • An extra $20 million to the Emerging Energy Program, encouraging private-sector investment in large-scale electricity and storage projects;
  • $10 million for a new recycling fund for solar panels and battery systems.

NSW Greens Party

  • Establish a new publicly owned electricity company to generate, distribute and retail renewable energy;
  • $1 billion to support local community renewable projects and $1.5 billion a year in large-scale, publicly owned renewables projects;
  • Rebates for more than one million households to install solar panels and battery storage.

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