Queensland unveils renewable zone roadmap to connect 22GW of wind, solar and transition from coal

Kidston solar farm. Photo: Genex Power.

The Queensland state Labor government has unveiled a renewable energy zone roadmap that it says will lay out the framework to connect 22 gigawatts of new capacity to the grid, enabling it to meet its 80 per cent renewables target by 2035.

“Renewable energy is transforming our economy, bringing new investments and opportunities for generations to come,” energy minister Mick de Brenni says in his introduction.

The roadmap identifies 12 locations across the state as potential sites for the REZs, although it says these locations will be further refined and progressively planned and developed. The state remains the most coal dependent in the country, with the lowest share of renewables (29 per cent) in the past year.

“Not all areas where a renewable project has been identified will be a REZ,” the document says. “Instead, REZs will
focus on the areas that are most prospective for development, with the aim of coordinating the connection of multiple generators in an efficient way.”

The development of the REZs will include planning for associated ports, roads, bridges, waste management,
water, workforce, housing and other elements that are critical to the roll out of renewable energy assets.

There are five zones identified for the south of the state, four in the central region and three in the far north. Three – the Southern and Western REZs and the far north REZ are already “in flight”, while most of the others will go through their consultation processes in the mid 2020s.

It says the “in-flight” REZs identified in the REZ Roadmap are already progressing under the existing National Electricity Rules with a foundation project in development. An In-flight REZ may be converted to a declared REZ at a later date.

However, the government says it expects the Callide REZ in central Queensland will be the first official REZ in the state.

The region is home to the bulk of the state’s coal fleet – which still accounts for an average 67 per cent of the state’s annual demand – but it already hosts nine solar farms, one wind farm and has a further 48 renewable energy projects in the pipeline.

The government says the REZ Readiness Assessment process begins in Central Queensland in the first half of 2024 and will involve further community engagement to ensure the roll-out of key infrastructure and supply chains essential for economic prosperity.

“The REZ Roadmap paves a clear way forward to ensure all regions of the State benefit from the economic and investment opportunities renewable energy brings,” de Brenni said in a statement.

“We’re taking intentional, measured steps to deliver a clear and detailed framework, which has never been rolled out in Australia on this scale before.

“Having a clear plan for the rollout of renewables means security for communities, a reduced impact on our natural environment, and works towards establishing Queensland as the best practice benchmark for delivering the energy transition in partnership with community.”

The state government plans to progressively convert its fleet of coal fired generators into clean energy hubs, and will support its renewables rollout with at least 6 GW of storage (of various duration).

Further expansion is being considered as the demand for electricity rises with deep electrification and green hydrogen, and this will be considered in future editions of the SuperGrid Blueprint and REZ Roadmap.

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