A FORUM will be held in Armidale next month to explore coal seam gas and other energy opportunities for the region.
The NSW Government and Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI) will host the forum, which will include discussions by industry and government and experts on the available energy options and what action the region should take to safeguard future requirements.
Key industry stakeholders will be invited to attend the event in late August.
“This is all about making sure industries in our region have a comparative advantage in relation to energy costs and access to these energy supplies,” RDANI chairman Mal Peters said. “The ‘do nothing’ alternative would only ensure that local industries will leave the region or significantly reduce their demand for labour as they try to reduce costs.”
Duty MLC for Northern NSW Scot MacDonald said the region needed to harness new energy sources such as CSG in order to ensure affordable energy.
“At the moment gas is dearer than coal, but that will change over time with extra pressure on coal-fired power stations,” he said. “If gas takes off to the west of us, we need to ensure we have pipelines to our communities so we aren’t bypassed as it makes its way into Queensland.
“Everyone gets excited about population growth or the lack of it, and if you look at the latest Census figures, our population growth rate is about half of the rest of the state’s. People go where the jobs are, and reducing energy costs in the region will allow us to grow.”
Mr MacDonald acknowledged the concerns raised by environmentalists and landowners, but said the economic argument needed to be considered as well.
“I’m concerned that if we don’t have these discussions now, the rest of the world is going to pass us by and even more companies will move out of the area to places like Queensland or Victoria with cheaper energy,” he said.