Queensland Determined To Grow Renewable Energy Sector

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Originally published on RenewEconomy.
By Sophie Vorrath

Solar_farm_FRV_Royella_ACT-300x197Just days after Western Australia’s energy minster predicted solar PV would soon displace coal as the state’s major source of daytime electricity generation, the Queensland government has confirmed a similar departure from a reliance on coal power, with the promise to do everything in its power to support the development of solar and wind projects in the state.

Speaking at a budget estimates hearing on Friday, Queensland energy minister Mark Bailey said his government was determined to grow both the small and large-scale renewable energy sectors, and jobs along with them, using investment and new policy measures, including reverse auctions like those used, to great success, by the ACT government.

“The (Palaszczuk) government supports absolutely establishing a Queensland-based large-scale renewable energy industry,” Bailey told the hearing.

“We are working with renewable energy agencies to deliver a reverse auction for at least 40MW of renewable energy,” he said, adding that regional, government-owned Queensland utility, Ergon, had made an expression of interest for 150MW of state-based renewables capacity.

“The benefit of this,” Bailey noted, “is not only a transformation to clean energy but also the establishment of the skill base, a workforce, investment and, importantly, jobs in Queensland. We have to grow jobs in Queensland in the emerging industries, and certainly renewable energy is one of the big emerging industries, and we are keen to be part of that.”

The Queensland government’s focus on renewables as an economic growth industry contrasts with that of the federal government, which has continually warned that higher renewables targets and stronger action on climate change would amount to a drain on economies, jobs and consumer hip pockets.

Last week, however, Queensland treasurer Curtis Pitt gently reminded his federal counterparts that his state’s economic future did not rely only on the development of the Adani-owned Carmichael coal mine, and that the growth sectors of the future for Queensland lay beyond the mining of fossil fuels.

“I am a strong advocate for the development of the Galilee,” Pitt said. “And I am going to do everything I can to accelerate that to ensure we can get the benefit of the jobs. But it is not the be-all and end-all.”

Meanwhile, as an example of the economic and generation potential of renewables, Bailey pointed to South Australia, which is now sourcing 40 per cent of its power from renewable energy sources.

“They have attracted $5.5 billion worth of investment. That has created a lot of jobs and yet here in Queensland we have gone backwards for the last three years,” he said.

Bailey also noted that industrial battery technology was being rolled out by Ergon to cut network costs, and the government was partnering with Californian company Sunverge to trial domestic batteries in regional Queensland.

“This is part of the whole agenda about governments being serious about acting on climate change and not just talking the talk, which we see, unfortunately, at a federal level,” Bailey said.

“We have to be active in terms of our policy and making sure we are actually moving away from carbon-emitting industries into clean energy industries.”

The state has also committed to a small-scale target of one million solar rooftops by 2020, with Bailey noting the “great opportunities” provided by the continually improving economics of battery technology.

He has also pointed to the potential of the state’s commercial and industrial rooftop solar markets, which he said lagged behind New South Wales.

“The demand for solar is very resilient and it is a maturing market. For us it is about facilitation, it is about getting blockages out of the way in terms of the industry.

“That is the way forward. The market is driving a fair bit of it. We are happy to work with the renewable industry sector and build positive relationships there which we have been doing over the last seven months,” Bailey said.

“Now that the RET has finally landed and there is some certainty, albeit a fairly low target which is unfortunate, it at least has given the industry certainty in which to go out there and get projects going; a very good situation for Queensland to be in.”

Reprinted with permission.

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11 thoughts on “Queensland Determined To Grow Renewable Energy Sector

  • Too bad Australia can’t get rid of Abbott who like Britain’s Cameron, and Canada’s harper are nefarious crooks who are in the pockets of the dirty fossil fuel industry. However it is good to see Australia ramp up it’s use of clean renewable energy. They can power their entire nation with clean wind and solar, and get rid of dirty coal and natural gas.

    • Australia earns big bucks selling coal and NG as exports. It is very important as a foreign exchange earner. The transition to renewables will hurt the Australian economy but it is inevitable. Australia will have to raise its international competitiveness in other export sectors.

      • With the floating Australian dollar exporting less coal automatically increases Australia’s competitiveness in other areas. For example the fall in the Australian dollar resulting from the decrease in coal and iron ore prices has been great for Australian farmers. And a big importer of foreign machinery is the coal industry, so it’s not as great a loss of foreign exchange as it may seem at first glance. The shift away from coal is not consequence free, but less than 50,000 people work in Australian coal and there are no real “coal towns” like in the US or other country where coal mining is the only major employer. We just want our blind luck money and extraordinary profits from having large coal deposits near rapidly growing demand in Asia back rather than, you know, actually working for normal profits. As I’m sure you can understand. But with 80 cent a watt solar in India those days aren’t coming back. We’re a little cranky about low coal prices, but it’s not as if we aren’t one of the richest countries in the world and I’m sure we’ll manage just fine without the industry. And the coal industry is unlikely to disappear overnight. For one thing, Australia does seem to be the world’s lowest cost producer of coking coal, so Australia should be about the last place where production of that dies.

  • I find it interesting that a member of the current right wing W. Aust. government is in touch with reality on this issue. There is hope for Harper, Cruz, and Abbott.

    • It is members of the Queensland state Labor government that are being quoted, not the current Coal-ition federal government. And it goes to show how deeply coal has its sooty talons sunk in Australian politics when even a state Labor treasurer has to say he supports a project that will stochastically kill members of his seat, but at least he isn’t head over heels in love with coal, unlike the federal government.

      • I feel that he really does know that Galilee will not be built out, but as you say, he needs to play the game.

        • That’s true. As soon as he admits that he doesn’t think the coal mine will be built then the Coalition will blame him for all the unemployment ever. And all the terrorism. Not to mention all those poor Indian children who won’t get a stocking full of nutritious, life giving coal this Christmas.

    • No hope for them, but hope for less bat-shit crazy right wingers to emerge.

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  • I find it refreshing that Queensland has finally figured this out.
    Perhaps Victoria, home of Hazelwood and Loy Yang, will get there eventually and shut down those polluters.

  • Pitt’s token support for Galilee coal is excusable as politics. The project is going nowhere, and there is no reason for the new Labour state government to carry the can for the failure. The crucial decision is whether to rescue it by massive and open-ended subsidies, and if I read the tea-leaves correctly, Pitt is signalling that won’t happen.

    “Queensland treasurer Curtis Pitt gently reminded his federal counterparts ‘..” Oz politicians don’t do gentle. Refreshing.

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