The Queensland Liberal-National party appears to have ruled out providing public funding for a new coal fired generators in the state, significantly denting the hopes of its federal counterpart.
Speaking at a pre-election energy forum hosted by environmental groups on Thursday, Queensland shadow energy minister Michael Hart was clear in his opposition to the Queensland state government providing taxpayer funding to a new coal fired power station.
“The LNP is not proposing for any government investment for a new coal-fired power station. Let’s just rule a line through that straight away,” Hart said.
The comment sees the state Queensland LNP break ranks with its federal counterparts, including some of the most ardent coal promoters within the Queensland LNP’s own federal ranks, who have pushed the Morrison government to provide funding support for new coal generators.
The Queensland LNP’s federal parliamentarians include federal resources minister Keith Pitt, his predecessor Matt Canavan and north Queensland MP George Christensen, who have all called for a new coal fired generator in Queensland.
With no serious private sector moves to invest in a new coal fired power station, the only prospects of a new power station being built in Queensland, such as the one being pushed by the Queensland LNP federal parliamentarians in Collinsville, rests with the Morrison government.
As revealed by the Guardian on Friday, proponents of the proposed Collinsville power station, Shine Energy, were asked to submit an application for a grant of funding to complete a feasibility study, days after it had been already announced as a successful funding recipient.
RenewEconomy has sought access to the initial findings of the feasibility study of the Collinsville power station delivered to the government, under a Freedom of Information request, but the requests have been repeatedly refused.
It raises questions around the process followed in awarding the grant to Shine Energy, and the lack of transparency of the decisions being made around the potential underwriting of a new coal fired generator in North Queensland.
The Queensland energy forum was hosted by a collective of environmental and energy campaigning groups, including Solar Citizens, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Australian Conservation Foundation, Australian Marine Conservation Society and Queensland Conservation Council.
“It was great to see the Queensland LNP rule out funding for the polluting and expensive Collinsville coal proposal. Without government funds new coal power will just not get off the ground anywhere in Australia,” Solar Citizens’ National Director Ellen Roberts said.
“The Shadow Minister also showed interest in energy storage and electric vehicles, that’s an improvement from things the LNP have said in the past, but his comments indicate that they’ll bring limited renewable energy ambition to the election.”
While Queensland Labor energy minister Anthony Lynham did not make any new policy announcements during the forum, he reiterated the party’s support for renewables and that the sector would be a priority for the Palaszczuk government’s economic response to Covid-19.
“Renewable energy will definitely be part of our recovery. It’s in everyone’s mind in this Government… because where are the jobs in renewable energy? They’re all in regional Queensland,” Lynham said.
Lynham had previously written to federal energy minister Angus Taylor expressing ‘deep concern’ over the proposal to build a new coal fired generator in Collinsville and that he thought it would potentially put jobs at existing Queensland generators at risk.
Queensland Greens spokesperson and member for Maiwar, Michael Berkman, said that the state government should consider providing subsidies for the installation of battery storage systems, particularly to help the technology become commercially competitive for households.
“I think in the advent of a much better range of battery storage, we need to look at how we can better subsidise the uptake of those,” Berkman said.
The Queensland state election is scheduled for 31 October and appears set for a closely fought battle between the incumbent Palaszczuk Labor government and the Queensland LNP opposition led by Deb Frecklington.