Pushing for more gas production is seeing Australia enter a new “dark age” by shunning scientific advice to lower emissions, a leading energy expert has warned.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday inked a $2 billion energy deal to add another 70 petajoules of gas per year into the national electricity grid.
NSW alone uses about 120 petajoules per year.
Bruce Robertson from the Institute of Energy Economics and Finance Analysis says this won’t do what the government is promising – reduce prices or emissions – and rejects scientific advice.
“We’re seeing that with climate policy and we’re seeing that with gas policy – we’re seeing evidence thrown out the window,” he told AAP.
“We’re entering a new dark age.”
Boosting gas supply hinges on final approvals for Santos’ Narrabri gas project, but options in Port Kembla and Newcastle are also up the state government’s sleeve.
Fracking extracts gas in a water-intensive process which results in excess salt, risking contamination to both land and other water.
“The government’s holding out very big carrots and very big sticks. It clearly wants to get this done and it clearly isn’t representing the people,” Mr Robertson said.
“Producing more polluting fuels does not lower emissions.”
The agreement involves jointly underwriting interconnectors between the Snowy area and Sydney, along with a link between Queensland and NSW.
Touted as a “transition” deal, it also cements federal funding towards setting up a renewable energy zone in the central west of NSW and underwriting new power generation projects in the state.
The deal puts pressure on the NSW government to remove barriers to coal supply to the Mount Piper Power Station, which is due to operate until about 2042.
Mr Morrison said some of the money would go towards coal innovation to see how power generation and mining can emit less pollution.
Environmentalists are critical about the plan, particularly towards extending the use of coal, while business groups have given it the thumbs up.
The federal government plans to ink similar deals with other states rather than develop a national energy plan.
South Australia appears to be next on the list, with Premier Steven Marshall planning to release a strategy on how the state will achieve zero net emissions by 2050.
It comes as new Clean Energy Council analysis shows investment in large-scale renewable energy projects has significantly slowed.
Investments plummeted from 51 projects worth $10.7 billion in 2018 down to 28 projects worth $4.5 billion last year.