The new Labor government in Queensland has confirmed its commitment to generating 50 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable energy by 2030, and to ensure that one million of its homes had rooftop solar by 2020.
The plans were outlined in Labor’s pre-election policy release, although there were some concern that these were the aspirations of a party that expected to remain in Opposition.
However, Mark Bailey, the new energy minister, told RenewEconomy that the government is determined to reach those targets, and is establishing a state-based Productivity Commission to provide a policy pathway to get there.
“Renewable energy has long since stopped being a fringe issue, now is the time for Queensland to make this happen,” Bailey said before a speech at the Australian Solar Conference in Melbourne.
The commitment by Queensland means that all three Labor states are looking to ambitious renewable energy targets, in contrast with the Federal government which is looking to cut the target for large-scale renewables to 33,000GWh, and now threatens to continue policy uncertainty by calling for yet another review.
South Australia has a 50 per cent target by 2025, although that ambition seems tame given that it is already above 40 per cent now. It says that target is dependent on federal policies.
Victoria is looking to establish it own renewable energy target, just as it did a decade ago when the then MRET was scrapped by then and current industry minister Ian Macfarlane, but cannot do so because recent legislation prevents it from having a state-based scheme.
The alternative is to copy the example of the ACT government, which has a 90 per cent renewable energy target by 2020, and hold “reverse auctions” and so-called contracts for difference to commission extra renewable energy capacity.
Bailey says the government has already committed to an auction of 40MW of solar capacity, although it has yet to set a date. And it hasn’t yet worked out the mechanism to get to its longer term target.
Queensland currently has little large-scale renewable energy capacity, apart from a series of biomass plants using sugar cane waste as feedstock.
A 44MW solar thermal “booster” plant is being added to the Kogan Creek gas plant, and a 3.2MW solar facility at Gatton is the biggest solar PV in the state.
Earlier this week Bloomberg New Energy Finance said up to 2,600MW of large-scale solar could be built in Australia – even in a much reduced renewable energy target – with much of it being built in Queensland. That’s because Queensland is the only state with a rising demand profile, due to its energy hungry LNG plants.
Several large-scale solar plants have been proposed in the state, along with the large Mt Emerald wind farm in the north of the state.
Bailey said the government also wanted to lift the number of households with rooftop solar from its current levels of more than 400,000 to one million by 2020.
The Newman government sought to demonise rooftop solar as the plaything of “champagne sippers” and “latte drinkers”, but Bailey said the Labor government would have a different attitude.
The government wanted to ensure that households got a fair price of solar, that reflected the benefits and the costs of the technology. Those benefits would be increased by the addition of battery storage – at grid and household level – because of its ability to stabilise the grid and accommodate more renewables.
“Energy storage will change the energy landscape,” Bailey said.
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, and is also the founder of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and founder/editor of www.TheDriven.io. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.