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Qld Labor ups ante on renewables – more ambition, new technology

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Queensland Labor has announced a significant new commitment to its renewable energy, unveiling an updated policy paper that aims for at least 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030, and committing new funding to the state’s first solar thermal with storage project.

The new policy push appears deliberately designed to contrast with the back-ward thinking of the LNP Coalition, which vows to scrap renewable incentives and targets, and wants to build a new coal fired power station.

Labor is also keen to counter some of its own confused messaging over the Adani project, which is putting inner Brisbane seats at risk, including that of deputy premier Jacky Trad.

But in an election that is largely unpredictable – thanks to a major redistribution, the reintroduction of compulsory preference voting the and the rise of One Nation –  Labor has now decided that a double-down of its renewable energy commitments could be a vote-winner.

Queensland is the first of several Labor states to go to the polls, with South Australia due to go in March, and Victoria, with a legislated target of 40 per cent by 2025, due to face the electorate next November.

The new strategy outlined on Sunday, during a visit to the nearly-completed Clare solar farm, includes $50 million to “kick-start” the construction of a solar tower and storage facility in the state, similar to the one that South Australia has contracted near Port Augusta.

“We are committed to establishing a solar thermal baseload generator, which can power Queensland even at night,” said premier Anastasia Palaszczuk.

“We are offering a $50 million capital down payment to help make this a reality.We are offering a $50 million capital down payment to help make this a reality.”

She cited a solar thermal project proposed by CWP Renewables, near Townsville, but mentioned others had also made proposals.

SolarReserve, which is building the 150MW plant near Port Augusta, has previously cited Queensland as a major focus and said on Monday it was looking to build six such plants in Queensland over the next decade. It might have added, only if Labor wins the election.

Queensland Labor also re-committed to creating a third government-owned generation company that would compete with the fossil fuel-based incumbents – Stanwell and CS Energy – and provide another 1,000MW of renewables, with a focus on “flexible, dispatchable” generation.

This, said premier Anastasia Palaszczuk, would be on top of the 400MW of renewable energy in the tender that has currently been put on the back-burner pending the outcome of the election.

Other initiatives include a further $97 million for solar schools, comprising $40 million for 35MW of solar PV and $57 million for energy efficiency measures, and a $1 million study for renewable solutions for the Daintree, and $3.6 million to help decarbonise remote communities.

But it is the commitment to aim for at least 50 per cent by 2030, which struck most interest, and set off a new conflict over the impact on consumers.

“We are committed to our transition to at least 50 per cent renewable energy in Queensland by 2030,”  Palaszczuk said in a statement.

“Our Powering Queensland’s Future Plan sets out actions to make sure we get the balance right, delivering more of the cheapest form of new generation – renewables sooner to complement our young and efficient fleet of coal and gas-fired generation.”

And she went further:

“Queensland’s abundant natural resources mean that renewable generation can power Queensland 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – even when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow,” Palaszczuk said.

“We will ensure that Queensland’s electricity generation includes the right mix of solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind generation, with battery and pumped hydro storage, as well as exible, dispatchable forms of new generation like the concentrated solar thermal plant which uses molten salt storage to power Las Vegas at night.”

The government was challenged by the LNP to reveal the nature of the contracts entered into by the Labor government in the last two years – many of them providing PPAs to large scale solar farms.

The LNP said the nature of these contracts have not been revealed. And it is a fair point. Indeed, none of the contracts entered into by Queensland, Victoria, NSW, South Australia and now WA have been revealed. And this is bad for transparency, and competition.

Releasing those contracts would also help justify Labor’s claim that “renewable energy is now the cheapest and quickest way to deliver new generation, which is what we need to put downward pressure.”

QLD re project pipeline

The policy documents note that three large-scale solar farms have commenced operation (Barcaldine, Normanton, and Sunshine Coast), and a further 21 were committed or under construction, totalling some 1,900MW of capacity.

“Queensland now has the most large-scale renewable projects under construction of any state in Australia. More is on the way with another 8,800MW of proposed large-scale renewable energy projects at earlier stages of development – $20 billion investment which would support 15,000 jobs.”

Palaszczuk also struck a note of caution about the national Energy Guarantee, indicating that Queensland Labor would not agree to any new policy until its details have been thrashed out.

Some states such as South Australia say they could not agree to the NEG on current terms, given that it was likely to entrench the power of incumbents,  was an attack on renewables and designed to protect the coal interests of the big utilities.

Queensland won’t have a vote at the COAG energy council on November 24, a day before the election, although votes in COAG tend to be done by “consensus” and could well commission the Energy Security Board to do further work.

“What we won’t do is agree to any policy until it is fully formed and fully modelled, so that we know it’s in the best interests of Queensland – particularly in relation to household bills, and regional investment,” the premier said.

The policy document was welcomed by the Clean Energy Council, which said that Queensland, having led  has led the nation in rooftop solar panels for years, was now investing big in large scale projects.

and the many big wind and solar projects which are underway across the state are employing thousands of locals and generating economic opportunities in regional parts of the state,” Mr Thornton said.

“Renewable energy is now the cheapest and cleanest option for new energy generation and, when combined with energy storage, it can do everything fossil fuels can – except much more flexibly and without the pollution,” CEO Kane Thornton said in a statement.

He also said the LNP’s proposal to build a new coal plant in north Queensland “doesn’t make sense”, a view echoed by the Australian Energy Council, the Queensland government’s own research, Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott, and numerous others.

“Renewable energy with storage is now cheaper than new coal, and the reality is that any new coal plant will take at least seven years to be built if everything goes smoothly,” Thornton said.

“However, there are some good ideas in the LNP’s energy policy to streamline approvals for renewable energy projects and introduce more efficient regulation,” he said.

  

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  • Vincent Mumford

    Finally a clear message from Labor on renewable energy. Lets hope its not too late.

    • Guy Stewart

      If QLD labor loses, it won’t be because of this strong policy. Sad to see labor doing more for regional investment and jobs in QLD than the “National” reps.

      • Hettie

        Guy, surely you mean “good to see? ”
        Not that Nationals voters would be looking at policies.
        “My family have always voted National!”
        As if that justifies anything except time for a review.

    • Chris Drongers

      I don’t see the message clearly. The Labor renewables policy is attacked by the LNP on cost grounds, and also some gibberish that QLD has coal and has a moral imperative to use it (qld also has sun and wind which don’t hang around for later like coal but according to the LNP wind and sun can be left to “evaporate” daily without attracting moral approbium).
      So where is the economic model underlying the Labor plan? Put the model, its assumptions, inputs, outputs, links and feedbacks and forwards, out there.
      Then the renewables arguments betwixt LNP and Labor and we the commentariate gets some sort of rational grounding. Without data the parties can slag each other off without the public gettingany better informed.
      Maybe only one voter in a hundred will take note of the modelling but we will try to educate another thirty friends.
      What happens now without data, or even testable predictions of the renewables / coal options, is a voter disengagement and protest vote for Greens or One Nation.
      I will give this Labor renewables plan more weight when the Splityard Creek pumped hydro gets substantial use. As proof of intent by the principle shareholder, i.e. the Labor government.

  • Alan S

    ‘Me support coal – whatever gave you that idea? Had my fingers crossed.’

  • Dennis Abbott..

    Great News, CST with storage will be an asset to Qld and the Grid,
    however, the risk of cyclones must be considered. ITP Realising the Potential of Concentrating Solar Power, 2012 (page 101) suggests plant location should be at least 200km inland.
    Shame the proposed “CopperStream” transmission link from Mt Isa to Townsville never got up, this would have been the ideal conduit to bring CST electricity from inland Qld to the East coast,- my understanding is Xstrata did not wish for the project to go ahead.

  • Robert Comerford

    Really!!, and did no one see the news clip the other day?
    The Premier standing with her local candidate in north qld stating how while they were not going to give money to Adani, they were all for it as it would bring all those jobs with it.
    What jobs?
    Oh, is those 10,00 that even Adani said was a fantasy??…more like a couple of thousand until automation takes over.
    How many jobs will renewables bring to north qld might be a better line for them to push if it is more than the 2000 that Adani will bring.

    • Ron Horgan

      I guess that this is the little soft shoe shuffle that the Premier has to do in this delicate situation. With a minority government her room for manouver is limited.

      • Steven Gannon

        There’s a real chance Labor could lose 1-3 Brisbane seats to the Greens, it would be extremely interesting if the dice fall in that direction because the Greens won’t compromise on Adani. I can count five wildcards, this election, but overall, it doesn’t look like Nicholls has a big fan club up here.

        • Ron Horgan

          Labor -Greens would work. Premier has covered this base by her ambiguous distancing from Adani.

          • Steven Gannon

            Pretty much, yes.

    • Joe

      Adani and …”more like a couple of thousand…”, you are being way too kind with the job number. A few hundred is more likely with full automation and they will be sitting in Townsville and Rockhampton HQ’s, watching computer screens.

  • Ron Horgan

    Great initative to present the case for renewables and differentiate from LNP.
    Spelling out the job implications of renewable versus Adani should emphasise that Adani intend a fully computerized mining and transport operation with minimal employment. Perhaps this clear policy difference will move people back from the minor parties to Labor. The protest vote is strongest when neither major party satisfy the voters.

  • Joe

    Premier Jay is the lightning bolt and it seems that he has struck again….Premier Annastacia? If only Premier Annastacia hadn’t done the ‘Adani Dance’ for so long. But I’ll give her, her due. She is seeing the light ( pun intended ) at last. The LNP can burn ( pun intended ) in hell with their dumbass Coalers.

    • Ken Dyer

      Hi Joe, I actually wrote to her along the theme of do you really want to be re-elected, and urging her to dump Adani.

      Her reply in July contained the following:

      “As part of the Powering Queensland Plan, this Government confirmed its commitment to a 50 per cent renewable energy target in Queensland by 2030. Additionally the Powering North Queensland Plan is a $386 million commitment to strategic transmission infrastructure and the Burdekin Hydro project in North Queensland, to unlock around 2000 megawatts of renewable energy projects and support 5000 jobs.”

      Also look here.

      https://www.dews.qld.gov.au/electricity/solar/solar-future

      Until now, that Plan has not been able to cut through because the largely Murdoch controlled media in this State and others persist in talking about her backflipping on Adani. She has always maintained that Queensland will not pay one cent to Adani and that the Carmichael mine has to stand on its own two feet.

      • Ron Horgan

        That’s a good link Ken. The renewable policy is excellent.
        SA and Qld leading the race!

        • Neil_Copeland

          It’s good that Queensland has a target of 50% by 2030 but SA is already there, 13 years before that. QLD has a lot of catching up to do.

      • Joe

        Yes, Rupert and his newsrags have the ‘Adani bit’ between their teeth and they will clobber Premier Annastacia at every opportunity. The Adani mega coal mine looks to be a commercial stinker but this last minute letter to China business might just get Adani the lifeline it desperately needs. Which of course will be a disaster for us all in the long run.

        • Ken Dyer

          Here’s an update

          http://ieefa.org/adani-faces-financing-gap-unpopular-australian-coal-project/

          The mine is unviable, and will only succeed if the taxpayer subsidises it, so that China will come on board. Premier Annastacia is looking after the taxpayers of Australia, and more power to her.

          • Joe

            Ken, thanks for the link which is an interesting read. China now the ‘bank of last resort’ ? I’m sure that our Chinese friends are very aware of the whole Adani issue. Would they really want to support this ‘environmental abomination’. There will be public backlash going on for years if the project does go ahead.

          • Ken Dyer

            China will support it if they can make a dollar out of it, otherwise it will not fly!

  • maxlyrical

    Pauline will be all over them like the rash she is.
    Power prices up.
    Renewables don’t work.
    The battlers will suffer…
    It will bring Muslims and terrorists!

    • Joe

      …and the red headed bomb thrower will say that RE has caused her to lose her new Senator. He gets the gig under PHON and enters the Senate as..an Independent. I’m loving that turn!

  • Steven Gannon

    I like that they intend to keep some of the generation in public hands, and all the other bits. I guess in the medium-term revenue will increase as all three will be online for a few years.

    It’s hard to predict this election, but I think Labor will win by a nose again. The ON vote is the main wildcard IMO because ON voters preference the major parties fairly evenly (ish), this might sway the Townsville seat eg. QLD voters didn’t throw Newman out last time, they threw out the LNP, who haven’t won many QLD elections in the last 20 or so years.

  • Ren Stimpy

    Qld the state has the best solar insolation in one of the top/best solar insolation countries in the world, i.e. ours.

    This is not so much an advancement, just the removal of a barrier to inevitable advancement which their opposition still has in place.

  • Ian Brimblecombe

    The Labor party is the only hope for renewables in Queensland in the near future. Let’s hope they get out and sell the message and not hide from it. Parties need to capitalize on the popularity of roof top solar and make it more available to more people. Labor’s trials for renters and public housing is good but needs to be extended to the whole state. Also a policy that allows peer to peer trading would be a huge vote winner, as would having fewer restrictions on getting on the grid, particularly if the customer would agree to install battery storage. These last two points could be implemented at little cost to the budget.

  • Charles Hunter

    “… as well as exible, dispatchable forms of new generation like the concentrated solar thermal plant …”

    Exible?

    I hate to sound like a certain anti-renewables red-head but “please explain”.

    • Ren Stimpy

      Flexible. Unlike a certain anti-renewables red-head.

  • Robert Comerford

    Even the ABC is helping the LNP and their fossil fool backers.
    Today I hear on the ABC news channel lunchtime news how ‘thousands’ of jobs are to be created with the new Adani mine.
    Adani admitted to 1464 with many to go with automation.
    Not good enough for a supposed quality independent broadcaster who should check their facts first.