State energy Minister Matt Kean says coal is here to stay
The state government is prepared to legislate to embrace new coal mines and prolong the life of coal fired power stations in a move which will anger greenies but ensure power supply.
At the same time, energy Minister Matt Kean will back electric vehicles with a secret NSW emissions reduction plan to consider investing in electric vehicle technology, including charging stations and stamp duty discounts as the state commits to a target of net zero emissions by 2050.
Mr Kean, in his first in-depth interview on energy and climate change since taking on the portfolio, told The Daily Telegraph he believes "Tony Abbott was right that direct action is going to be the key to achieving our objectives".
He confirmed he was willing to legislate to ensure a longer term coal supply and said his priority was keeping power prices down - even as the state pursues ambitious emissions reduction targets.
"The people of NSW want to protect the environment but not at any cost to their hip pocket,'' he said.
"We won't repeat the mistakes of the past and we want to avoid new taxes and regulation."
Mr Kean said coal was critical to the state's energy future and that NSW currently faced "huge challenges with the supply of coal to coal- fired power stations".
Pointing specifically to Mount Piper in the Lithgow region, Mr Kean said: "I won't rule out legislation to secure their coal".
In a move that will enrage greenies, this would mean bypassing clunky planning laws to speed up approvals to re-open nearby coal mines.
Mr Kean conceded his stance would upset some environmentalists but said "we won't place ideology before people".
He said the government was "committed and firmly focused on protecting the environment while at the same time keeping the lights on and driving down power prices".
Mr Kean said lengthening the life of coal in NSW did not preclude emission reduction targets - which the state has committed to - of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
The minister also said the agriculture industry and farming would not have emissions regulated and would be protected by the government.
However, he believes there is room to reduce transport emissions and expects the emissions reduction plan, which he said was in "embryonic stages", to target this area.
He said he would never "force people to buy electric vehicles" but wanted to look at incentives and build more charging stations in NSW.