The Queensland government has finally delivered on its pre-election policy of creating a third government-owned generation company, although this one focused on renewables.
State energy minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the creation of CleanCo would help reduce wholesale prices by another $7/MWh, which would translate into a $70 a year cut for household bills.
CleanCo is expected to include 1,000MW of clean energy assets. But, at least initially, that won’t include wind and solar.
What will go in to the new company is the rarely used Wivenhoe pumped hydro facility, the small and recently recommissioned 385MW Swanbank E gas peaking plant, and the Barron Gorge, Kareeya and Koombooloomba hydro power stations.
Essentially, these will add competition at times of peak demand, at least in theory. CleanCo will also have some $250 million to invest in new generation, likely wind or solar.
Lynham told reporters wind and solar was the key to reducing customer bills, and said the government was well on its way to meeting its target of sourcing 50 per cent of its electricity generation from renewables by 2030.
“We’ve seen the price of solar come down (to) one tenth of where it was 10 years ago,” Lynham said, adding it would fall further over the next decade.”The best way to bring down power bills .. is to invest in new renewable energy.”
Queensland has been experiencing an investment boom, with some 20 solar farms totalling nearly 2GW under construction, and some complete, plus its first major wind farms at Mt Emerald and Cooper’s Gap. Storage is also planned at the Kidston and Kennedy energy parks, and elsewhere.
“We will hit 20 per cent renewables next year … we’re well on target for 50 per cent renewables,” Lynham said.
There was no information on the long-delayed auction known as “Renew 400”, which was to include renewables plus storage, and for which expressions of interest were delivered late last year.
However, RenewEconomy understands that it is “imminent”. It will write off take agreements with those projects.
Lynham also took the opportunity of criticising the new Morrison Coalition federal government, and its new energy minister Angus Fraser, who have his first speech on Thursday since his appointment on Sunday.
“There was nothing new. It was simply a re-hash of ACCC recommendations,” Lynham said. “There was nothing about emissions, nothing about reliability.”
Asked about the position of the National Energy Guarantee, particularly after the Coalition government walked away from an emissions obligation, Lynham said: “There is an absolute vacuum on policy. We want them to pick up the phone and tell me what’s going on with the NEG. Is it dead and buried? What’s happening?”
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in a statement that the retention of state generators in government hands (and the instruction to those generators to moderate bidding strategies last year) had helped to keep prices low in Queensland.
“CleanCo will go even further to help deliver cheaper and more reliable energy for all Queenslanders – from mum and dad consumers right up to large industrial users,” she said.
“Renewable energy is a critical part of Queensland’s future which is why we are making an initial injection of $250 million to progress the development of new, public renewable energy generation assets.
“This is part of our plan to maintain majority ownership of generation assets as we transition to 50 per cent renewable energy to deliver secure and affordable energy.
“CleanCo will have a strategic portfolio of low and no emission power generation assets, and will build, construct, own and maintain renewable energy generation.
“This will continue supporting jobs in our renewable energy industry, starting with 1000MW of new renewables like solar, wind and hydro.”
“It is expected that CleanCo will be trading in the NEM by mid-2019, subject to receiving regulatory approvals.”
“At a national level we have seen nothing but incompetence and chaos, with a government that is asleep at the wheel with no plans for workers or communities. We won’t let that happen in Queensland,” Ms Fentiman said.
The government also said it would help establish a “Just Transition Group” to help ensure that affected workers and communities are looked after and that new jobs in the renewable sector are good, decent jobs.
“We will be able to provide a totally publicly owned transition pathway from traditional to renewable generation.
“This firmly puts Queensland at the forefront of Just Transition not only in Australia but around the globe.”
To support the work of the Just Transition Group an Advisory Committee will be established to help develop a Just Transition Policy Framework. The Committee will comprise of the Energy GOCs, relevant unions, stakeholder groups, Jobs Queensland, the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, Queensland Treasury and the Office of Industrial Relations.