Former Clean Energy Finance Corporation chief Oliver Yates has called for the establishment of a new, Queensland government-owned green bank to unlock the potential of the state’s north to become “a major growth engine” for renewable energy generation and export.
The report co-authored by Kevin Holmes – also formerly of the CEFC – and commissioned by the Smart Energy Council, says northern Queensland’s “world leading resources” are under-utilised due to a financial disconnect from Australia’s main capital markets.
“Few places in the world have such underutilisation of natural resources, existing infrastructure resources and people resources, all within a stable geopolitical environment as exists in this region,” the report says.
“Resources in northern Queensland remain underutilised primarily due to a lack of the necessary financial investment in projects and industries for the region to grow.
“This financial disconnect needs to change, for the economic betterment of both the region and in turn Australia,” it says.
The comprehensive 127-page Future North report maps a pathway to the development of a wide range of projects the authors say are currently trying to launch across the region, many of which – the authors say – are very advanced, according to on discussions with the proponents.
It says near-term project opportunities could involve some $15 billion of capital investment and create over 8,000 construction jobs and more than 7,000 longer-term diversified jobs when the facilities are in a steady state of operation.
The projects – while not all renewables-based – include the Kidston Renewable Energy Hub, the Lakeland Wind Farm, the Kennedy Energy Park, Bunkers Hill pumped Hydro, and various other large-scale solar and and hybrid renewables and storage projects.
Also in there is the CopperString 2.0 project, a proposed lithium battery manufacturing plant and the Gladstone green hydrogen and ammonia plant.
“For each of these opportunities, the report identifies measured, controlled and manageable levels of government support that could be considered.”
Supporting all of this would be the new state government body – which Yates and Holmes propose calling the North Queensland Development and Diversification Fund (NQDDF) – along the lines of the federal government’s CEFC.
“That will facilitate the financial infrastructure the region currently lacks, catalyse private sector investment and unlock the region’s enormous potential,” the report says.
Yates, who was CEO of the CEFC from when it was first established under the former Gillard government until late 2016, knows a good deal about unlocking investment in renewables.
In his time at the CEFC, which started its life with a $10 billion kitty, bank notched up $2.3 billion investment commitments, contributed to projects with a total value of $5.7 billion, and steered Australia’s renewable energy industry through extended periods of policy uncertainty and resulting investment drought.https://reneweconomy.com.au/yates-to-retire-as-founding-ceo-of-clean-energy-finance-corp-59720/
Yates’ tenure was also punctuated by periods of serious political hostility, particularly under the prime ministership of Tony Abbott, whose ultraconservative Coalition government repeatedly tried to have the CEFC, along with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, abolished. In Opposition, they even threatened to not honour the contracts the bank would write.
Since leaving the CEFC, Yates has remained passionate about developing Australia’s renewable energy potential – and meeting its international obligations to fight climate change – led him to challenge former energy minister Josh Frydenberg in his Melbourne seat of Kooyong in the recent federal election.
Despite this passion, the report has a singular economic focus, noting that the breadth and size of the development opportunities “can secure a prosperous future for northern Queensland, regardless of the success or otherwise of any future thermal coal projects or the need to address climate change.
“This report presents a blueprint for northern Queensland that will drive the region’s economy forward in a more diverse, resilient, adaptive and sustainable way,” it says.