NSW backs off rural renewables
The New South Wales government will not provide regional towns with renewably-sourced emergency backup power during disasters, despite its pledge to do so.
In 2018, the NSW government announced a $30 million program to fund small-scale renewable energy generation and storage in regional and remote communities.
The promised aims of the Regional Community Energy Fund (RCEF) included plans to award grants to renewable projects providing regional towns emergency backup power during disasters.
It would have seen renewables and storage used to create emergency backup systems for key buildings like town halls or evacuation centres.
The government had pledged funding for the backup power projects in mid- to late-2019, but the funding was never opened.
Reports say the NSW government has failed to explain the delay.
Questions have been asked about whether the program would have seen rural communities made more resilient to the current bushfire crisis, if the original timelines had been followed.
A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment says the program was never intended to provide general widespread backup power.
“The predominant focus of the Regional Community Energy Fund is to support renewable energy projects in local communities and is not intended to provide general widespread backup for grid supply in the event of a disaster or emergency like the current bushfires,” the department said.
“Throughout the bushfire emergency, the NSW RFS and other NSW government agencies have been working closely together with Essential Energy and Endeavour Energy to prioritise restoration of electricity supplies to evacuation centres, supermarkets, petrol stations, other businesses and homes either by backup generation or from the network.”