Sustainable good and bad

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Sustainable energy products and services are one of the fastest growing sectors in the state economy of New South Wales (NSW), according to a new survey by the NSW Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA). The sector, including energy efficiency, renewable energy and cogeneration products and services, contributed more than A$1.2 billion to the state's economy last year and is growing at 25% a year-faster than both the information technology and the tourism sectors. The survey found that NSW business expects a A$600 million increase in sales by 2000, when the total will reach A$4.9 billion. Exports of sustainable energy technology in NSW during 1998 exceeded A$170 million. The survey of over 800 businesses verifies that SEDA, a government agency, is having an effect on the industry with 43% of respondents saying the agency had "a positive influence on sales." In a country and state where unemployment is still above 7% and where the mantra for politicians is currently "jobs, jobs, jobs," the growth of the sustainable energy industry is politically popular. This makes the government's decision to wind down funding for SEDA (currently at $14.5 billion) difficult for the industry to understand. State Energy Minister, Kim Yeadon, is proudly proclaiming that the industry has created more than 1000 direct new jobs since 1996, with a further 1200 direct jobs expected by end 2000. "It is estimated the industry directly employs 4700 people and indirectly supports up to 13,200 NSW jobs, a figure which is expected to grow to up to 5900 direct jobs and 16,400 indirect jobs in 2000," according to Yeadon. A strong and competitive sustainable energy industry in NSW "will be able to cash-in on new international markets worth billions," he adds. "And the boom is expected to continue. SEDA may be allowed to continue if it becomes self supporting under a "funding flexibility" scheme. The decision to wind down SEDA is a reflection of the sustainable energy industry's recent growth from an emerging industry, according to the energy ministry's Kathy Meagher.

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