Nuclear's yesterday's technology, with a vintage price tag - Solar Citizens

Nuclear's yesterday's technology, with a vintage price tag

The following opinion piece by Solar Citizens acting CEO Joel Pringle was first published in the Newcastle Herald.

The Newcastle Herald's recent headline 'Nationals scope out the Upper Hunter for nuclear power plant site' (NH 19/4), may as well have read 'Nationals push for Hunter to become a horse and buggy hotspot'.

This is how ridiculous and outdated an option nuclear is for the Hunter. It's offensive to lump Hunter communities with the uncertainties and risks that come from half-baked proposals for a potentially dangerous and completely unnecessary technology. A few nations have decided they lack the affordable alternatives to manage the transition away from coal and are looking to expand their nuclear industry as a transition energy.

The evidence is clear that the Hunter - and Australia as a whole - is blessed with the renewable energy resources to make nuclear unviable here. It is yesterday's technology, with a vintage price tag. Nuclear power generation is not suitable for the Hunter.

There is no community support for overturning the national nuclear ban implemented by the Howard government, and nuclear power stations are prohibited by every state and territory government due to health and environmental concerns.

A recent report by the Australian Energy Market Operator looking at the nation's energy generation mix into the future showed nuclear generation is higher cost and has a longer lead time than renewables backed by storage and transmission. The same report finds "... new renewables with new transmission, firmed with hydro, batteries and gas - is the lowest cost way to supply electricity to Australian homes and businesses as coal fired generation retires".

Renewables are the cheapest and cleanest form of new energy. Rooftop solar with home batteries delivers the win-win of cost-of-living relief with cheaper power and less climate pollution. Australians are voting with their rooftops for cheaper, cleaner solar energy, with more than 3 million rooftop solar installations. With more Australian households now having rooftop solar than swimming pools it's time for the Nationals in the Upper Hunter to start listening.

The Hunter puts its money where its mouth is. In Newcastle and Lake Macquarie alone there are about 63,145 solar system installations, producing about 359,827kW of solar energy.

Analysis released last week, commissioned by Solar Citizens and conducted by the Australian PV Institute at the University of NSW, revealed a massive $9.3 billion a year in potential cost savings for Australians if people living in apartments or houses were supported to install more rooftop solar.

The untapped solar potential of NSW households and apartments could save households about $1500 a year in power costs, and collectively generate an extra 18,000 GWh of clean, cheap solar energy while saving about 250 megatonnes of carbon emissions over the lifetime of the solar system.

Closing the rooftop solar potential gap would create 240,000 additional job-years of employment in the solar sales and installation industry, equivalent to employing 48,000 people for five years.

The renewable energy potential of the Hunter is not just in our homes, with the federal government announcing its $1 billion for the Australian manufacture of solar panels and related equipment at the Liddell site. The sun and wind will be powering jobs and industry too. Domestically made solar panels provide more transparency of supply chains and product quality and safety. The development of local panel manufacturing will provide more consumer confidence.

This is the kind of modern industry investment needed as the Hunter transitions from its economic and social reliance on fossil fuel-based activity to becoming a renewable energy powerhouse. There's a bright future in renewables and the good jobs, savings relief on energy bills and cleaner, cheaper, healthier power they generate.

Coal might have powered our past, but in renewable energy we can see our future emerging. Nuclear energy has no role in the story of the Hunter.

Our communities don't deserve the Nationals' nuclear risks.