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.”