Union demands halt to new wind and solar projects in Queensland, but it’s already happened

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The influential Electrical Trades Union has demanded that the Queensland government put an immediate halt to all large scale renewable and energy projects until it has put together a “just transition plan” and a detailed energy policy.

The demand from the ETU came just days after the Queensland government celebrated reaching 4GW of solar power in the state (it is actually closer to 5GW), and as it reacted to reports that suggested the 700MW Callide B coal plant could be closed ten years early.

As RenewEconomy reported earlier this week, the closure of Callide B has not been brought forward. Instead, the Australian Energy Market Operator has adjusted a data error in its spreadsheet to reflect the fact that Callide B only ever had a 40-year operating life, rather than a 50-year one.

Still, the ETU’s demand for a halt to all new wind and solar projects is a remarkable one. It says it wants to make sure that regional areas are not adversely affected by the transition to renewables.

It was the ETU that earlier this forced the state government to introduce new legislation that would ostensibly allow only electricians to handle solar modules on large scale projects – a rule that would have effectively ended local employment opportunities on new projects and require developers to fly in electricians from elsewhere. It was overturned by the courts.

In a statement this week, the ETU says a recent meeting of Queensland and Northern Territory delegates called on the Queensland Government to “put an immediate halt to ALL large-scale renewable projects that haven’t as yet commenced construction and to get the Just Transition Authority to present to government a full plan on how the network will adapt and what types of renewables are  needed.”

The union needn’t worry. According to this list of projects sent to Reneweconomy by the energy minister’s office earlier this week, the construction of large scale wind and solar projects in the state has already come to an effective halt.

The Yarranlea solar farm is largely completed and just waiting for formal commissioning, while the Warwick and Brigalow solar farms – which would have been brought to a halt if the ETU demand for “electricians only” had been approved – are half way through construction.

There are no other large scale wind or solar farms that have reached financial commitment in the state, thanks to the lack of any coherent federal policy, new connection hurdles, and a long queue for state government mandates.

Another 10 projects have been short-listed for potential backing by the new CleanCo, the state-owned generator that will focus on renewables and storage, but this is not expected to be decided until the middle of next year.

CleanCo, which begins operations at the end of this month, aims to sponsor about 1,000MW of new wind and solar capacity, but it has until 2025 to reach that target. That compares to the more than 2.5GW of wind and solar that have been built in the last two or three years.

ETU state organiser Jason Young said the union is focused on the “just transition” but was not convinced the government had a clear plan.

“With the whole world screaming for action on climate change this Queensland Government has a real chance to highlight how, when done collaboratively and in conjunction with a proper,” he said in a statement.

“Just transition plan, we can transition to renewable forms of energy and it can be done with minimal impacts on regional jobs and towns.”

  • Woods said the union wanted the government to “put a halt on all planned and proposed large scale renewable energy projects until the Just Transition Authority has the funding, mandate and resources to ensure workers and communities are future-proofed.”

And he wanted CleanCo to identify the scale and scope of investment required ” to provide a responsible, diversified public-owned renewable energy sector that provides jobs and job security where they are needed.”

“We will not allow our members and their communities to be left in the dark when it comes to their jobs and the future of their towns. One thing is for sure, if nothing is done now there will not be a reliable, relatively cheap power network in Queensland within five years.”

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