Queensland poll could be a show-stopper for solar, and consumers

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As Queensland prepares to vote in the state election on Saturday, we look at what’s at stake for the renewables industry – particularly if Labor loses.

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Solar PV (yellow) and wind (green) farms currently in an advanced stage of development in Queensland, together with the Galilee coal prospect (black) and potential PHES sites (blue)
Solar PV (yellow) and wind (green) farms currently in an advanced stage of development in Queensland, together with the Galilee coal prospect (black) and potential PHES sites (blue)

Dirty versus clean; old versus the new; fossil fuels verses renewables; expensive energy versus cheap. There has rarely been so much at stake for an industry as there is in Saturday’s state election in Queensland, and the result is far from clear.

Current polling from Galaxy puts the ALP on track to win the required 47 seats for a majority, but as the Brisbane Courier-Mail reports, this will hinge on a number of factors, including unpredictable preference flows from One Nation supporters.

As at the federal level, politics in Queensland has been heavily focused on energy in the run-up to Saturday’s poll.

The Labor Palaszczuk government – which has a 50 per cent RET by 2030 for the state – has been campaigning strongly around renewables, with a particular focus on increasing rooftop solar uptake as a way to cut power costs for businesses and homes around the state.

The new policies, launched in late October as part of the Palaszczuk government’s $2 billion Affordable Energy Plan, will offer no-interest loans to consumers wishing to invest in rooftop solar and battery storage, but lacking the up-front capital to do so.

They will also work to give landlords and renters equal access to solar, through a trial initially involving 1000 rental households. Queensland energy minister Mark Bailey said the rental solar scheme had the potential to save tenants up to 10 per cent off their annual bill, or up to $150 a year, while landlords could get a rebate of up to $520 per year.

On large-scale renewables,  as we reported here, Labor, has promised to follow through on a program already underway to underwrite 400MW of renewable energy projects.

Following on from this, it has committed to support a further 1000MW of renewable energy projects via a new government power company; and to look to construct new transmission infrastructure in Northern Queensland that would unlock a vast new province of wind, solar and hydro power projects.

On the other side of the political divide, the LNP conservative coalition that is seeking to replace the current Labor government has made its intentions on energy clear: the end of renewables incentives; government money for a new coal generator in north Queensland; and support for the Adani coal mine.

The LNP is also claiming a huge reduction in consumer bills: $160 a year for two years, followed by savings of up to $460 a year in 2020.

But this is largely a mirage, as energy analyst Hugh Grant has pointed out. He noted that the only parties with policies that would deliver price reductions were the Greens, and Labor.

Not that Queenslanders got to read about that anywhere – apart from RenewEconomy, the local media refused to publish the results, as Michael West points out in this piece.

In the Conservative corner in the fight for new coal is federal minister for resources and northern Australia, Matt Canavan, who – recently restored to his portfolio – is as keen as ever to use the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to help fund a new coal-fired power plant in Queensland’s north, as well as to get the Adani coal mine and port project off the ground.

One Nation is also keen to build a coal-fired power station west of Townsville, with party leader Pauline Hanson pledging to commit $1.5 billion to the project, which she wants built in Collinsville – a former coal hub of the state that is more recently turning to large-scale solar.

In fact, according to data gathered for RE’s Renewable Energy Index, the North Queensland region has more power generating capacity under construction than the entire state of NSW, and almost as much as Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia combined.

Meanwhile, Queensland home and business owners are leading the country – which in turn is leading the world – in rooftop solar uptake.

A Climate Council report last month showed that almost one third (31.6 per cent) of all Queensland homes now have solar panels, which puts the state ahead of South Australia, at 30.5 per cent, and Western Australia at 25.4 per cent.

What’s more, there are 14 postcodes in the Sunshine State alone where more than 50 per cent of households have rooftop solar, including the the Moreton Bay region town of Elimbah, where an impressive 63 per cent of homes have PV panels on their roofs.

The Australian Solar Council – newly rebranded as the Smart Energy Council – aren’t resting on their laurels, though. The peak solar industry body is spooked enough about a possible LNP victory that is has launched its own major election campaign, urging voters to put the Coalition last.

“Queensland voters face a stark choice at the election tomorrow,” the SEC said in an email to members on Friday:

“A new polluting coal-fired power station or a solar thermal plant providing 24-hour solar power; no new large-scale renewables and massive job losses or 1,000 megawatts of new large-scale renewable projects in regional Queensland; and a National Energy Guarantee that delivers the longest solar eclipse in history or sensible national energy policy.”

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6 Comments
  1. Joe 2 years ago

    Premier Annastacia was on the telly earlier today with a speech and then a Q & A at The Press Club. She was bombarded with questions about RE, Coal, Adani and govt. handouts etc. She batted it all away, looked and sounded strong and confident.

  2. solarguy 2 years ago

    Let’s hope Labor has a resounding win tomorrow!

  3. Ken Dyer 2 years ago

    IF QUEENSLAND is led by a Labor Government after Saturday, there will
    be no chance of Federal funding for the rail line vital to Adani’s
    Carmichael Coal Mine.

    LNP Senator Matt Canavan late yesterday confirmed he would respect the
    promises of a re-elected Palaszczuk Government, including her decision
    to veto a taxpayer loan to the Indian mining company.

    https://www.themorningbulletin.com.au/news/canavans-voter-ultimatum-on-adani-rail-loan/3272522/

    But I think it’s bulldust – he used that comment to threaten people if they did not vote LNP, that would be the consequence. What a scumbag!

    • Joe 2 years ago

      Gotta luv The COALition at the moment. We saw the Barnaby collect his $40,000.00 ‘performance bonus’ from his very, very good friend Gina down in Canberra on Tuesday night…a bit of cash for Barnaby to help get that Gallilee Basin Coal precinct up and running for Gina,…as well as Adanai of course.. Then we saw Big Mal himself having lunch during a timeout in the course QLD election campaign. The lunch host for Big Mal was a Chinese donor to the LNP who had just handed over …$40,000.00….the magic number of the week or so it seems. Political bribery of The LNP, what the hell is going on???

  4. WR 2 years ago

    As of Sunday morning, it looks like Labor will get 46-49 seats. They need 47 seats to form a majority government. So they have a good chance of getting this.

    If Labor finishes with 46 seats, they will probably form a minority government. In this case, the two Katter party members should be strong supporters of any renewable energy projects that bring jobs to regional QLD, and there will be at least 1 or 2 Labor-leaning independents or Greens who are also likely to support the 50% RE target.

    Either way, it looks like RE should get a boost in QLD over the next 3 years, as long as the proposed NEG doesn’t get in the way.

    • Chris Drongers 2 years ago

      The Greens could help renewables in Qld, but they could also stay true to their roots and go feral refusing to vote for any renewables plan that is less than perfect. The Greens refusal of the good over the perfect scuppered the Federal carbon tax, they could well do the same in Qld. In the meantime I am watching Kidston, Hughenden, Coopers Gap, Claremont, Wandoan and every other renewables project in Qld hoping for more support. It is hard to believe that a new coal power plant will even be talked of if 2000 MW of new renewables come on line in the life of the incoming Qld government (of whichever flavour).

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