Sydney was coughing up a lung yesterday as smoke from nearby bushfires descended upon the city, making it look more like the smoking area of a Beijing bar than the sapphire of the South Pacific. Appositely, this was the day of the Smart Energy Council’s (SEC) long-awaited National Smart Energy Summit (Summit) at the Hilton Hotel.
When NSW Minister for Energy & Environment Matt Kean came to the stage, he wasted no time in addressing the elephant in the room. “Let’s not beat around the bush this morning,” began Kean. “These bushfires have been caused by extreme weather events, high temperatures, the worst drought in living memory – the exact type of events scientists have been warning us about for decades that would be caused by climate change.” No beating around the bush indeed, though it would be hard to beat the bush considering it has just burnt down.
No doubt renewably energised by cheers from a choked-up crowd, Kean declared: “It’s not time to end the climate wars. It’s time to win the climate wars.”
Even though this line of political rhetoric would’ve sounded better if delivered anastrophatically, a la Master Yoda, Kean managed to return to the practical ground of the Summit by speaking to the importance of renewables to the energy transition. “We are already seeing mums and dads across the country installing solar panels on their roofs. Not because it is good for the environment – which it is. But because it saves money on their bills – it makes economic sense.”
.@Matt_KeanMP comes out swinging:
— 💧simon holmes à court (@simonahac) December 9, 2019
Moreover, Kean spoke to the country’s adoption of a National Hydrogen Strategy, reiterating mastermind and Australia’s Chief Scientist’s Dr. Alan Finkel’s belief that Australia can produce up to 50% of the world’s hydrogen needs. “This isn’t just an opportunity to be the Saudi Arabia of solar,” declared Kean. “It’s an opportunity to be the Middle East of energy. But this is not an opportunity that is going to wait for us.”
Now that the golden hill was firmly in all our sights, Kean thought to address the ideological and political obstructions to our reaching it. “To those vested interests and ideologues who want to stand in the way of this transition,” said Kean, “I say enjoy your Kodak moment because the energy iPhone is on its way.” Though a slightly mixed metaphor, the meaning manages to squiggle through. “We cannot allow ideology and politics to get in the way of our clear path to secure our economic prosperity, let alone the health of our planet for generations of Australians.”
Kean made sure to note that any, and indeed all, of these potential futures depends upon the future of renewable energy. Toward this end Kean spoke of the NSW Government’s Electricity Strategy, including the State’s first Renewable Energy Zone.
Kean believes these zones will “play a critical role in delivering the bulk energy supply we need to replace NSW’s traditional coal base over the next two decades.”
Kean sees NSW at the centre of the new global energy order, and while wind will play a part, Kean is not ignorant of our country’s strengths. “The resource that our vast country is best known for,” said Kean, “and that those Northerners wish they had more of, our sun.”
Though his federal Liberal colleagues aren’t so sure, Kean is certainly aware that if Australia is going to be an energy empire, it will be an empire of the sun.
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