Solar and utility-scale renewables big winners from Qld election

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Labor to target one million solar homes, use auctions to kick-start 50% renewables target by 2030, and encourage storage and local generation from councils.

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Labor’s assumed win in the Queensland state election could be the death-knell of the Galilee Basin coal province, but rooftop solar looks to be a big winner, and it may also finally provide the launch-pad for large-scale renewable energy industry in the state.

qldThe Labor government unveiled its solar and energy policy just a week before the election, and because no one really thought they had a chance to win power, not a lot of attention was given to it.

But it includes some fascinating policy initiatives, even if the details were not provided – probably due to the party’s lack of resources with just a 9-member team pre-poll.

Chief among them is a goal to connect a million houses to solar (the state is already half way there with more than 400,000 houses connected, and 1.2GW of rooftop solar), and to ensure that there is a fair price for solar.

Labor also aims for a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, and intends to kick-start this with a reverse auction for 40MW of “baseload” renewables. It envisages exporting renewable energy expertise, rather than coal.

Other initiatives including encouraging local councils to generate their own electricity, and introduce storage, to offset the huge costs of transmission.

Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said the party will look to copy the ACT in establishing a reverse auction program – initially for 40MW of “base-load renewable energy including solar power”, and then for more large scale renewable energy plants.

“By encouraging investment in base-load solar power stations through our renewable energy auction, we will leverage private investment to create the high-tech renewable energy jobs of the future right here in Queenslandm,” she said in here policy release.

“We will also initiate a renewable energy study to investigate measures to create an export-orientated renewable energy economy here in Queensland.”

The ACT is using the reverse auction system to construct up to 500MW of renewable energy and meet its target of 90 per cent renewable energy by 2020. The results of its tender for 200MW of wind capacity will be announced on Friday. We previewed the possible winners here.

“We understand that technological advances for solar-generated power storage have changed the game,” Palaszczuk said, suggesting the party is looking at a solar tower plus storage combination, or maybe just PV and storage. “As a result, policies to promote renewable power are not just kinder for the environment, they make sound economic sense and will generate jobs.”

So far, apart from a couple of turbines built years ago at Windy Hill, and the much delayed 44MW “solar booster” at the Kogan Creek power station, there are no large scale renewable energy projects in Queensland apart from some well established biomass projects associated with sugar farming, and some hydro projects.

Clearly, though, there is a bunch of projects in the pipeline, with at least one dozen 100MW plus solar PV projects seeking or obtaining planning approval.

Palaszczuk noted that reverse auction had been successful in South Africa and Brazil, and they have also been widely deployed elsewhere in Europe, Asia and the Americas. A recent auction in Dubai obtained a record low price for solar PV (5.1c/kWh in its first year), and the same company bid a record low price for a solar tower and storage project in South Africa.

“This is a simple and sensible way to generate power and the jobs that go with it without any major outlay from taxpayers and without selling assets and their $2 billion a year revenue stream,” she said.

Palaszczuk promised to make an independent authority set the feed-in tariff for new customers, instead of electricity retailers. Many solar households feel they are being penalized in Queensland, with those in the south-east corner often unable to get any tariff for exports back into the grid, and for large systems, unable to export back into the grid at all.

Around one third of the homes in Queensland have rooftop solar systems under this arrangement, with no or little tariff. Most of the others are on the 44c/kWh premium tariff.

Labor has flagged getting a different authority to look at those tariffs. Currently, the Queensland Competition Authority has been setting guidelines for tariffs, and it is not clear that the Productivity Commission would be any more enlightened. Regulators throughout Australia have simply refused to dial in the benefits of solar PV into their calculations, unlike in the US, as we explained here.

The signature policy, of course, is the decision not to sell or lease the state-owned energy assets. More likely, the new government would look to combine Energex and Ergon into the same company – which may create an interesting cultural clash about the transition to distributed energy and storage – particularly with the push for the number of solar homes to jump to 1 million, and the push into localized energy and energy storage. The two fossil fuel generators – Stanwell and CS Energy – will also be combined.

It is not yet clear who the Labor energy minister will be. Curtis Pitt held the portfolio when Labor was in Opposition, but that was in addition to his other roles as Leader of Opposition Business, Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Trade, Energy and Water Supply, Main Roads, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, and Sport and Recreation. He will likely to Treasurer in the new government.

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12 Comments
  1. Chris Drongers 5 years ago

    One suspects that solar and other renewable developments in Qld will move at a rapid clip almost from tomorrow.
    – Firstly, to cement into voters minds that the new government is progressive on environmental matters (and to have a positive mindset in place to overshadow the disappointment inevitable when later in the year the same new government announces continued support for coal mines).
    – Secondly, to emphasise the lack of environmental cred in Canberra and put pressure on for changes there in the run up to the next federal election.
    – Thirdly to try and get regional employment back up using quickly started regional scale renewables compared to decades long starts for big FIFO mines.
    The new government will be helped in the residential and commercial scale solar industry by the massive reduction in number of installation companies, and the commensurately increased scale, skills and business acumen of the remainder still functioning, caused by the downturn in activity over the last few years.

    • Neil_Copeland 5 years ago

      Let’s hope they will not need to negotiate with the KAP as they want increased taxpayer funding for the Galilee Basin Rail

  2. Chris Fraser 5 years ago

    This fledgling Labor team is new – and to be fair we need to wait for words to become policies, and actions. But such a relief to realise State Governments are getting back into the drivers seat on energy and environment. It will be a win for voter choice, to think not all the big decisions are left to the Feds. The States are the true controllers of energy, energy efficiency, transmission and grids. In some cases, they are Owners of the grid. Sometimes they even set up their own carbon trading system. If this can be done (again), they could set up cross-border schemes with other progressive States.

    • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

      ALP discovered votes in the environment, renewables and pro-active CC policy. Beware, Tones.

      • The Green Lantern 5 years ago

        Be nice if there was real reason to expect serious improvement from the ALP on this, but the Queensland lot made it clear they’re no
        better than right-wing/pseudo-left ALP govts elsewhere, when their leader pledged
        not to negotiate to secure government if there were independents/third parties in the balance of power. That doesn’t lead me to expect very much from them (assuming they do take govt, that’s not 100% certain yet).

        Same goes for their track record when last in government in Queensland.

        Expect them to support the continuation of coal seam gas, to oppose a moratorium on it, for example.

  3. Engineer Malcolm 5 years ago

    In fact Labor’s policy is to combine Ergon, Energex and Powerlink. Talk about a clash of cultures !
    But credit has to be given to Ergon with the work they have done on storage and a few other innovative projects.

  4. disqus_3PLIicDhUu 5 years ago

    Instead of toy pet projects they should be looking towards large scale wind and 500MW+ solar thermal stations to compete with coal, in readiness for the transition away from fossil fuel.

  5. Nick 5 years ago

    It’s great to see this policy. At the same time I’ve not heard any commentary on how this is consistent with the other commitment to pay down some of the states debt using the profits from the said GOCs.

    Seemingly such a policy would stand to cause a bit of a profitability problem for those very organisations. How is it going to be ensured those costs aren’t passed on to those consumers without panels?

    As a voter on the sidelines I’ve got no doubts it the right way to go, I’m just not sure how carefully they’ve thought it through. A proposal like this should almost need money allocated to it from the budget to offset the losses, particularly from the coal fired generators, as the scheme really gets underway until they can eventually be shut down shouldn’t it – not a promise to use their profits to pay off debt!?

  6. wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

    Hey Giles, thanks for this news.

    Think you meant to put a link into this sentence in third last para.

    “Regulators throughout Australia have simply refused to dial in the benefits of solar PV into their calculations, unlike in the US, as we explained here.”

    • Giles 5 years ago

      Fixed!

  7. activist09 5 years ago

    Bringing a ray of hope in the lives of poor, illiterate and marginalized women, or so they are called “solar engineers”….

    This is about the rural solar electrification project run by the Barefoot College in the village of Tilonia in the state of Rajasthan, India, where numerous illiterate rural women from all over the world, particularly Africa, are being trained as solar engineers. The solar-electrification project symbolizes hope, as a simple idea
    originating from a little-known village in India has the potential to impact global communities.
    Watch “No Problem! Six Months with the Barefoot Grandmamas” free online here:

    cultureunplugged (DOT) com/play/52730

  8. Ian 5 years ago

    The benefits of distributed renewable generation are legion. Democratisation of power generation – individuals can generate their own power and not be held ransom by corporate suppliers. Security of supply – distributed generation means less potential for sabotage. Environmental – power loss through transmission, use of fossil fuels, ash disposal, air pollution, greenhouse gasses all plague the fossil fuel generators. Solar is a hedge against inflation, once built the cost of consumables is very low. Scalable, and quickly deployable . It has one drawback and that is diurnal variability. The government should be looking at ways to address the problem of intermittent supply. Fortunately the answers are not difficult or new. Wind power, hydropower are very complimentary, Central and distributed battery storage are becoming rapidly feasible, electric vehicles provide a huge opportunity. Load matching in terms of encouraging residential and commercial self consumption of solar for heating and cooling with thermal storage (hot water tanks, ice storage refrigeration. Night time load shedding such as the use of LED street lighting. Certain barriers to solar deployment need to be removed especially the cynical pricing structure for commercial electricity users were connection fees are high but energy use fees are low. Renewable energy manufacturing needs to be encouraged but obviously not at the expense of solar deployment. Namely manufacturing of solar panels, inverters, lithium batteries, electric vehicles, ice storage refrigeration. Solar power has come under a lot of opposition and scrutiny which has lead to critical and of innovative thinking. The ground work and business model have been formulated. Government needs to be shown the case for solar and renewable energy and then be held accountable for its deployment by the next election.

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