Regional NSW communities would receive more than $80 million per year in existing state government coal royalties to seize new opportunities as coal assets wind down, under a proposal put forward by the economic think tank the Blueprint Institute.
The institute's report From the ground up: A Blueprint for economic diversification in regional Australia, presents a plan to empower communities and renew economies as the energy market shifts.
"The regional communities which have underwritten so much of Australia's past and present prosperity deserve to choose their own economic futures," Blueprint researcher Nathan Twibill said.
Under the institute's proposal, independent, locally-run authorities would receive an initial $20 million from the Federal Government and five per cent of ongoing state coal royalties, which currently equates to about $80 million in NSW.
They would bring together existing local businesses, energy, and coal companies, worker representatives and investors to attract new industries, investment and jobs.
The proposal builds on the NSW Royalties for Rejuvenation policy,which sets aside $25million of coal royalties each year to assist coal mining communities to develop new industries. The government will establish a statutory expert panel made up of community organisations to steer decision-making around the fund.
The Blueprint report also highlights that the closure dates of coal-fired power stations at Yallourn and Lithgow were recently brought forward.
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It anticipates more early closures as cheaper renewables continue to out-compete coal fired power.
"These regional communities deserve considered policies and a pragmatic road map as coal-fired power becomes financially unviable for the companies which own it," Blueprint Institute senior energy researcher Josh Steinert said.
"Each community should be given the tools to craft its own path forward."
The institute also recommends developing a national strategy to renew and reuse retired coal mine and coal-fired generator infrastructure.
It argues the Federal Government should provide support to develop renewal strategies and match company investment up to $100M, in line with government support for energy infrastructure investments.
It also calls for the expansion of the emissions reduction fund to $10 billion by 2030.Generating more carbon sequestration opportunities can help farmers diversify into drought resilient income.