At least 200 submissions have been made to the inquiry into the Sustainability of Energy Supply and Resources in the NSW Legislative Assembly, many of them highlighting the importance of diversification planning and support in the Hunter region.
The submissions sound a warning on the region’s challenging future as global thermal coal markets decline in response to a shift to renewable energy amongst countries that have traditionally bought Hunter coal.
Many submissions urge the NSW Government to back the local community by providing support to develop new employment and economic opportunities which can buffer against the changes which are underway in the coal sector.
The submission by Lock the Gate Alliance included a review of coal mines in NSW, and showed that 35 operating thermal coal mines are currently scheduled for closure by mining companies in the next two decades.
The need for economic diversification has been highlighted not just by Lock the Gate, but by inquiry submissions by the Port of Newcastle and Singleton Council.
“International experience of coal decline shows us that public dialogue and preparation are crucial to avoid a legacy of unemployment as markets change” said Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods.
“There are 35 thermal coal mines in the greater Hunter region coal chain that, on paper, are expected to close over the next two decades according to mining industry documents.
“NSW’s three main coal customers buy three-quarters of our coal, and are moving towards renewable energy generation at an unprecedented pace.
“This will seriously hurt coal communities in the regions. But there is still time to act. Global research has shown that early preparation and transparent and consensus-based inclusion of communities offers the best chance of avoiding the worst outcomes that can arise from poorly planned structural adjustment.
”We’re calling on the NSW Government to urgently allocate funding to support the Hunter region to create new jobs and economic opportunities, and to develop a taskforce with community representation to lead the process” she said.
Submissions from the Inquiry can be read here.
A common theme is that these changes and challenges are emerging irrespective of action on climate change and that this change will take years, so there is still time to prepare.
- The latest trends in coal markets are identified by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
- The need for diversification support is highlighted by Singleton Council, by member for Lake Macquarie Greg Piper and by the Port of Newcastle.
- The CFMMEU Mining and Energy Division supports a just transition for the electricity sector.