Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced that Queensland will establish three new renewable energy ‘corridors’ as part of a $145 million investment in new transmission infrastructure to unlock new wind and solar investment in the state.
Giving a ‘state of the states’ address to an event hosted by CEDA, Palaszczuk announced that the Queensland government would support the deployment of new transmission infrastructure across North Queensland, Central Queensland and South West Queensland.
“We will map out areas within Queensland for investment in renewables – solar and wind – by supporting the delivery of transmission infrastructure,” Palaszczuk told the ‘State of the States’ event.
The new transmission infrastructure will be targeted towards supporting further investments in new wind and solar projects across the three regions, contributing to the Queensland government achieving its 50 per cent renewable electricity by by 2030 target.
Palaszczuk said that by enabling further investment in large-scale wind and solar projects, that benefits would flow through to Queensland industry, supporting existing manufacturing jobs and supporting the emergence of new clean industries.
“In North Queensland – there’s potential for up to five renewable energy zones from Cairns down to Townsville and out west to Barcaldine,” Palaszczuk said.
“The North Queensland corridor has significant potential for demand from new economy minerals including CopperString 2.0, minerals processing, manufacturing and hydrogen.”
“In Central Queensland – there’s potential for projects in the Fitzroy and Wide Bay renewable energy zones. These would make our aluminium and smelting industries more competitive with more renewable supply and strong potential for hydrogen development.”
“In the South West the Darling Downs renewable energy zone will meet demand from agricultural production and has the potential to help supply New South Wales.”
The ‘corridors’ will enable the establishment of a number of renewable energy zones across Queensland and will also see the involvement of the government owned Powerlink and CleanCo in enabling investments in new projects.
“Achieving internationally competitive energy prices in the North West Minerals Province would mean 3,500 more jobs in North Queensland – delivering the minerals needed globally for batteries, renewables and electronics,” Palaszczuk added.
“I don’t want to just deliver renewable energy zones – I want to deliver industrial zones and hydrogen hubs – because that means more secure full-time manufacturing jobs.”
As the co-developer of the 2GW Central Queensland Power project @EnergyEstate welcomes the leadership and funding announced by @AnnastaciaMP to support Renewable Energy Zone development in Central Queensland, supporting heavy industry and skilled, secure, jobs. @DrAnthonyLynham https://t.co/MbN3EZXlpq
— Simon Corbell (@SimonCorbell) August 20, 2020
The announcement comes just months ahead of what is set to be a hotly contested state election in Queensland, with Palaszczuk seeking to position the incumbent Labor government as the leading party on clean energy.
“My government’s 50 per cent renewable energy target has been critical to delivering the lowest wholesale energy prices on the east coast,” Palaszczuk said.
“It has supported $6.6 billion of investment in solar and wind farms and 5,700 construction jobs over the past five years – taking Queensland’s renewable energy generation to 20 per cent by the end of the year, compared to just 7 per cent when we came to government.”
“At this point I have to remind everyone here that the LNP went to the last election committing to scrap the 50 per cent renewable energy target claiming it would drive up prices and ‘kill’ jobs. What we have seen has been the exact opposite.”
The announcement was welcomed by the Central Queensland Power project, which is currently developing a 2,000MW plan for firmed wind and solar within what would become the Fitzroy Renewable Energy Zone.
“This is the leadership we need, to support ongoing development and investment, including the project we are developing in the central Queensland region,” Central Queensland Power project spokesperson Simon Corbell told RenewEconomy. “The development of the renewable energy zone could power heavy industry in Gladstone, as well as enabling green hydrogen production.”
“It is exciting to see the Queensland Premier recognise the opportunity for new clean energy industries, and clean energy skills in Queensland, and how these are intrinsically linked to the development of renewable energy zones in Queensland.”
The investment commitment was also welcomed by environmental groups, including the Australian Conservation Foundation, but added that Queensland needs to do more to keep pace with other states.
“The announcement of a Renewable Energy Zone for central Queensland is especially welcome. Home to coal-fired power stations and a hub for heavy industry, Gladstone can make the transition to a low emissions future,” ACF campaigner Jason Lyddieth said.
“Queensland can recover, rebuild and renew from the economic downturn by becoming a leader in climate action and renewable energy.”
“Other states are forging ahead with renewables. South Australia is shooting for 100%. Tasmania has ambitions for 200%, with plans to export clean energy to the rest of Australia. Queensland needs to get big and bold to keep up.”
The Queensland government was warned recently by energy market analysts Green Energy Markets, that based on its current trajectory, Queensland was set to fall short of its 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.
The analysis suggested that a recent boom in wind and solar investments had slowed considerably, with virtually no new projects being committed to be built in the state in 2019.
Announcing that it will established dedicated renewable energy ‘corridors’ is likely to help stimulate investment in new projects, by directly addressing some of the barriers that new projects have encountered around network connections and system strength issues.
The announcement mirrors similar initiatives announced by the NSW state government, which is currently funding the development of two dedicated Renewable Energy Zones in the central-west and north-west regions of the state.
Coinciding with the Queensland government announcement is the release of a report by The Next Economy, entitled What Queensland Wants and prepared with Queensland government support, which argues that strong support for new renewable energy investment could create up to 50,000 new jobs in the state.
“Queensland is well placed to create new jobs and investment opportunities in a low-carbon economy, in fact regional Queensland is already taking action. From councils transforming their waste management processes, to industry adapting to the expansion of renewable energy and potential hydrogen and green metals production, the regions are leading the way,” report author and CEO of The Next Economy Amanda Cahill said.