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Key Issues in Energy

Key Issues in Energy

Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Background Paper 4/2011 by Daniel Montoya and Nathan Wales

The purpose of this briefing book on Key Issues in Energy is to provide Members of the New South Wales Parliament with an up to date and accessible overview of this important, complex and many sided subject. Issues relevant to energy, including its production, consumption and pricing, are significant at every level of politics, economics and environmental science in New South Wales and beyond. Energy related issues impact on people of all walks of life and in a variety of contexts, from cost of living and employment concerns to debates about sustainability and the like.

With a focus on New South Wales, this briefing book covers a wide range of topics, setting out key data on renewable and non-renewable energy resources in its early pages and expanding on these themes in later sections of the publication. The importance of coal to the New South Wales economy is discussed, as are the environmental concerns arising from our traditional reliance on fossil-fuel power generation. Likewise, the potential of wind-powered generation is considered, in which context certain health related concerns are canvassed. In all cases, the intention is to set out the facts, figures and issues clearly and even-handedly, without arguing the case for or against any particular solution to future energy needs. The closing sections of the publication set out the relevant trends and projections relating to gas and electricity pricing, issues which are likely to be the subject of intense future debate. All care has been taken to source the data presented from the best available research. The information included in the briefing book is current as at December 2011 and includes the findings of the Commonwealth Government's Draft Energy White Paper, released on 13 December 2011.

While every effort has been made to present the data in an accessible form, certain aspects of the discussion are to some degree unavoidably technical in nature. Likewise, the complexities of the intergovernmental regulatory frameworks operating in many of these areas must be addressed to an extent on their own difficult terms. To assist the reader to navigate the plethora of research and regulations, hyperlinks are provided to key documents in all the subject areas, along with an extensive bibliography.

It is also the case that, while the topics covered in this publication are wide-ranging, it does not purport to be comprehensive in scope. Some key issues in energy are identified but for various reasons are not discussed in detail. These include the topical subjects of coal seam gas (CSG), carbon pricing, and climate change, all of which are the subject of ongoing debate and inquiry. For example, there is currently a NSW Legislative Council inquiry into the environmental, health, economic and social impacts of CSG activities. It should also be noted that, with the focus on New South Wales, the discussion of the national and international dimensions to the energy debate is not exhaustive. These are among the relevant topics that may be addressed in future Research Service publications.

Gareth Griffith

Manager, Research Service

21 December 2011