WA Labor, Liberals in renewables battle

·3-min read

Renewable energy is shaping as a battleground in the West Australian election campaign, with Labor promising a major local manufacturing investment and the Liberal opposition forced to defend its own ambitious plans.

Treasury costings have meanwhile revealed Labor's campaign promises will add $1 billion to the state's net debt over the next four years.

Labor's cost estimates for 126 commitments were considered reliable, Under Treasurer Michael Barnes said on Wednesday.

Only one discrepancy was identified - an additional $500,000 cost for the government's promise to deliver a mobile state police operations command centre.

But Mr Barnes warned that an already large asset investment program could blow out the timeline for delivering some infrastructure promises.

Net debt is forecast to reach $41.2 billion by 2023-24 as a result of Labor's promises.

The WA Liberals have so far refused to submit their policies to Treasury for costing, just as Labor did while in opposition in 2017.

Premier Mark McGowan on Wednesday unveiled a $259 million green jobs package, centred on the construction of more than 1000 stand-alone power systems including solar panels, battery storage and back-up generators.

They will be distributed throughout regional WA, including remote Aboriginal communities, to reduce reliance on diesel generators.

A further $10 million will go towards supporting wind turbine manufacturing.

West Australians will also be banned from putting e-waste into landfill from 2024, with the government putting $14 million aside for the construction of a suitable recycling plant.

With voters set to go to the polls on March 13, Mr McGowan again sought to contrast his government's "responsible" plans from those of the Liberals.

"This is embracing renewable power and manufacturing in a responsible, achievable and affordable way," he told reporters.

"This is not a wild commitment. This is costed, this is something that can be implemented and it will make a significant difference."

Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup has faced blowback over an ambitious plan for a state Liberal government to reach net zero emissions by 2030.

He has promised to shut down coal-fired power stations by 2025 and deliver a massive wind and solar farm in the state's Mid West to generate renewable energy.

Federal Energy Minister and Liberal colleague Angus Taylor last week criticised the plan, saying governments should be focused on helping businesses to upgrade to energy efficient technologies rather than "prematurely" closing down coal plants.

Former opposition leader Mike Nahan, who will retire at the March election, has also panned his own leader's policy.

But Mr Kirkup, a first-term MP whose party is trailing heavily in the polls, said the plan had generated "renewed interest" in the Liberals.

"There's been a lot of interest from the community across the board," he said on Wednesday.

"And I'm very pleased that there have been people who have come forward and said they want to back our plan in.

"From my perspective, this is core Liberal policy."