The Queensland government has announced that it will establish a $2 billion clean energy fund as part of the state’s economic response to Covid-19 that will “supercharge” the state’s expansion of its renewable energy and green manufacturing industries.
The expanded Queensland Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Jobs Fund, announced by the Palaszczuk government on Thursday, will be used to invest directly in new renewable electricity, hydrogen production and clean energy resources projects.
In an announcement that comes less than a week ahead of the next Queensland budget, the Palaszczuk government will add a further $1.5 billion to the fund, on top of an existing $500 million renewable energy fund committed in last year’s state government budget.
“Queensland is positioned better than anywhere in Australia to capitalise on the jobs and industries that will flow from this cheaper, cleaner energy,” Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
“This $2 billion Queensland Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Jobs Fund is all about more jobs and more industries. It will also support the further development of Queensland’s resources sector while at the same time helping to deliver on our 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.”
It is understood the fund will be used to allow government owned corporations, such as the Queensland government’s CleanCo, to invest directly in new projects.
Much of Queensland’s energy infrastructure, including its fleet of coal-fired power stations, remains in public ownership. But any moves to actively transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy has remained politically contentious.
The funding will be used to invest in local manufacturing of clean energy and hydrogen production technologies, new clean energy projects, and an expansion of the resources sector focused on materials needed for the production of clean technologies like batteries, electric vehicles and solar panels.
The commitment forms part of the state government’s $3.34 billion Queensland Jobs Fund and its efforts to support the creation of new jobs in emerging industries as the state recovers from the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Queensland has long been the backbone of Australia’s National Electricity Market through our combination of the nation’s youngest and most efficient fleet of coal-fired generators, our willingness to open up more gas reserves for industry and our increasing strength in renewables,” Queensland treasurer Cameron Dick said.
“This investment will ensure we have the energy supply necessary to be home to more heavy industry and more manufacturing, with the secure, skilled long-term jobs they create.”
Queensland minister for energy, renewables and hydrogen, Mick de Brenni, said the new fund would help ensure Queensland was able to attract new clean energy industries as global demand continued to grow for low emissions technology.
“By 2050, the world will be looking for more than 500 million tonnes of hydrogen every year, and we want to make sure Queenslanders get decent, secure jobs supplying it,” de Brenni said.
“There is no reason why solar panels, electrolysers, batteries, wind farm components and new technology can’t be manufactured right here in Queensland.”
The announcement has been welcomed by a number of environmental groups and unions.
“Transitioning to renewable energy has the opportunity to create thousands of direct local jobs and ensure our workforces are trained for the future energy sector,” WWF Australia’s Queensland renewables specialist, Ariane Wilkinson, said.
“Queensland is in prime position to become a renewable export superpower right across the supply chain, especially through local manufacturing and production of renewable, battery and hydrogen components.”
The Australian Conservation Foundation echoed this message, saying it made sense for the Queensland government to embrace its significant clean energy resources.
“This is a significant investment in the move away from coal and positions Queensland to become a big clean energy exporter,” ACF campaigner Jason Lyddieth said.
“It makes sense for Queensland to take advantage of our bountiful sunshine and wind resources to power our own state and drive new export industries like green steel, green aluminium and hydrogen.”
The Electrical Trades Union also welcomed the additional funding, saying that it would help support new jobs in the construction and operation of new clean energy projects, as well as measures towards a “just transition’ for workers.
“It’s the right start for Queensland, and I feel we are on the right track with this investment. It is important to remember this is only the first step in a just transition to renewables,” ETU Divisional Branch Secretary Peter Ong said. “It’s a significant step, but ongoing investment will be required in maintaining public ownership of renewables and a just transition for energy workers.”
The announcement is the latest in a flurry of clean energy announcements from the Palaszczuk government, and follows a $22 million commitment to a feasibility study into a new pumped hydro energy storage facility north of Brisbane and a massive 3GW hydrogen production facility successfully securing land for the facility in Aldoga.