Unprecedented Queensland clean energy investment means 21 per cent of the state’s energy production will be renewable by 2019.
According to Queensland Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham, this equals 2,164 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy. The Clean Energy Council (CEC) says this could power more than 800,000 homes in the state.
The state has an unprecedented $4.3 billion pipeline of renewable energy investment. Queensland currently has 356 MW of large-scale solar generation with 9 per cent renewables measured at the end of 2017.
No plans to close coal plants any time soon
However, Lynham told Brisbane Times there are no plans to close Queensland’s coal-fired power stations any time soon.
This reflects recommendations in the latest Australian Energy Market Operator report. According to AEMO, Australia’s coal-fired plants should be maintained as power assets until the end of their technical lives.
Coal versus renewables: getting the balance right
Lynham said an “orderly transition” from fossil fuels to renewable energy production is top priority for the Queensland Government. This means getting the right balance between clean energy and coal-fired generation.
Queensland is working towards 50 per cent renewable energy generation by 2030. This should make up for coal-fired plants retiring at Gladstone in 2029, Tarong in 2036 and Callide B in 2039, according to the AEMO report.
The decommissioning of all three coal stations will remove 3,780 MW from Queensland’s power production network within 20 years.
Tyranny of distance an issue for Queensland power
AEMO’s General Manager of Planning Craig Price also has concerns about the location of Queensland’s wind, pumped hydro and solar energy.
Because they are sited in “much weaker” parts of the national electricity grid, it will cost more to connect them, he said.
In addition, he said although the state has great renewable energy potential, the best locations for these generators are a “long way away from any of the major loads”.
Queensland clean energy investment overseen by CleanCo
Meanwhile, government-owned company CleanCo was due to be up and running by mid-2018. It was designed to oversee the renewables boom and ensure an orderly transition from coal.
Because of various challenges, however, its operational date has been pushed back to 2018-2019 in the latest Queensland budget. CleanCo will be tasked with keeping energy prices low.
Although the Electrical Trades Union has argued CleanCo will favour overseas renewable companies and workers, Lynham said this is a problem for the Federal Government.
In the long-term, solar installations and battery storage are critical to keep energy prices down and reduce pressure on the grid. Every home and business can play its part in lowering grid demand by taking some or even all of its power from solar. Thus it is the small players who can make Queensland clean energy investment a success.