The Clean Energy Council says that Queensland has a chance to seize an enormous economic opportunity presented by an expanded clean energy sector, and has called on the state’s political parties to embrace renewables head of a looming state election.
The Clean Energy Council released its policy priorities on Thursday, three months out from the Queensland state election, saying that Queensland needed to send a signal to clean energy investors that it was “open for business” and that this required a commitment to no new coal plants.
“Queensland, as Australia’s highest emitter of greenhouse gases, has a lot of work to do. By exploiting the state’s world-class solar resources and its wind resources, the renewable energy industry can grow while producing Australia’s cheapest electricity,” Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said.
“It’s imperative that Queensland commit to ruling out funding for new coal-fired power stations. Not only does this send a strong message that Australia’s youngest fleet of coal-fired power stations does not need to be added to by the federal government, but it also sends a message to investors that Queensland is open for business when it comes to more renewables,” Thornton added.
The Clean Energy Council priorities include a minimum 50 per cent by 2030 clean energy target, a commitment from government to rule out public funding for coal power stations, a 2030 energy storage target and an expansion of the use of clean energy in heavy industry, including expanded hydrogen production.
Queensland has emerged as one of the leading Australian states in terms of renewable energy investment, particularly in the rooftop solar sector with some Queensland suburbs ranking amongst Australia’s top suburbs in terms of solar penetration.
But with the Queensland grid still heavily reliant on coal generation, the Clean Energy Council said that parties contesting the Queensland election had to deliver a clear plan for how the clean energy transition can be accelerated in the state.
The Clean Energy Council said whichever party forms government in October, that Queensland should look to establish a dedicated task force to assess the skills and training requirements to ensure the state’s workforce was adequately prepared for a surge in renewables investment.
There are an estimated 6,000 workers currently employed in Queensland’s clean energy sector, and the Clean Energy Council expects that this could double over the next few years if strong policies to support continued investment are in place.
Alternatively, the Clean Energy Council warned that clean energy jobs could more than halve by 2022, citing a ‘business-as-usual’ forecast prepared by the Australian Energy Market Operator.
“The Queensland Government should establish a task force comprising renewable energy businesses, government, unions and training and research bodies to understand and map out the workforce needs and gaps now and in the future and establish clear strategies to address them,” Thornton added.
The Clean Energy Council also highlighted the large number of Queensland communities that were ideal candidates for being transferred to clean energy microgrids, which can deliver more reliable and cheaper power to remote and fringe of grid communities.
“By supporting communities in the move to microgrids, there will be savings and lower electricity prices for all customers – not just those supplied by microgrids. In areas affected by natural disasters, stand-alone power can also help to reduce risks and improve safety which is vital when Queensland is the most natural disaster-prone state in the country,” Thornton added.
The Queensland election, scheduled for 30 October, looks to be a tightly fought contest. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has held a consistent lead over LNP challenger Deb Frecklington as preferred leader since the last election held in 2017.
However, in the Queensland LNP has gained ground on Queensland Labor on two-party preferred polling, and the Queensland LNP may go into the October election as the slight favourite.
Both major parties have had to battle internal conflicts throughout the last period of government. The Queensland Greens will also be looking to expand its presence in the Queensland parliament and will target the South Brisbane seat of former deputy Premier Jackie Trad who resigned following corruption allegations. Trad was since cleared of any wrongdoing.
One Nation and the Katter’s Australia party will also be vying for additional seats in the Queensland Parliament.