The Powering Queensland Plan unveiled by the Palaszczuk government wants all options on the table, including gas, coal and renewables.

While it includes a commitment to achieving a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030 and the intent to hold a reverse auction for up to 400 megawatts of new renewable energy supply, it also includes re-opening the Swanbank gas-fired power station and opening up new areas for gas exploration. There is also no intent to close down any of the state’s existing coal-fired power stations in the near future.

In announcing the plan, premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the intent was to assist the state to transition to a greater share of renewable energy in its supply, and also to put downward pressure on energy prices.

“We know that rising wholesale prices and energy security have emerged as key issues in Australia over the last six months, driven by a lack of federal policy leadership undermining industry investment, gas supply restrictions in southern states, retirement of ageing coal-fired power stations and unprecedented demand during recent summer heatwaves,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

She said the government intended to reduce by half a recent price increase set in the Queensland Competition Authority’s regional price determination by investing $770 million to cover the cost of the Solar Bonus Scheme.

There is also $386 million set aside for strengthening and diversifying the energy and water supply in North Queensland, $150 million of that specifically for developing strategic transmission infrastructure to support the construction of renewable energy.

The government will also investigate the restructure of the state-owned corporation generators and look at the potential establishment of a “CleanCo”.

It is also commissioning an Energy Security Taskforce that will have the task of implementing any outcomes of the Finkel Review the state decides to accept.

Chair of the new taskforce will be Finkel Review panel member and former Energex chief executive Terry Effeney. Other members include Queensland’s chief scientist Professor Suzanne Miller, Queensland under treasurer Jim Murphy, and Professor Paul Simshauser, director-general of Queensland’s Department of Energy and Water Supply.

Energy Minister Mark Bailey said the first priority for the taskforce would be to work with Queensland’s energy businesses to ensure Queensland’s system remains secure during the high demand periods over the 2017-18 and 2018-19 summers.

“The taskforce will also lead work into developing transmission infrastructure in Queensland’s North-West to support a clean energy hub, assess the need for expanded interconnection between Queensland and other states, and investigate new hydro-electric generation sites,” Mr Bailey said.

Mr Bailey said the reverse auction for up to 400MW of “diversified” renewable energy capacity would include a 100MW storage component and an “emphasis on supporting local jobs and benefits”.

Mixed reaction from environment group

The plan drew a mixed reaction for the Australian Conservation Foundation. While the renewable target and other low-carbon energy initiatives were welcomed, it voiced concerned about the proposal to open up to 450 square kilometres of new gas tenure.

ACF Queensland climate change and clean energy campaigner Jason Lyddieth said it was disappointing to see the government falling back on gas-fired plant to put downward pressure on peak electricity prices.

“Gas can no longer be seen as a transition energy source,” Mr Lyddieth said.

“It’s a polluting fuel that is completely unnecessary to secure our energy supply and put downward pressure on power prices. Renewables are cheaper, cleaner and safer.”

The government will also not make a decision about how to reach the 50 per cent renewable target until 2019.

Queensland doesn’t need Adani

ACF climate change and clean energy program manager Gavan McFadzean said the investment in transmission infrastructure for renewable energy in the state’s north would enable more regional communities to “enjoy the benefits of the renewable energy boom” and the associated new jobs and infrastructure development.

“The announcement by Minister Bailey confirms that you don’t need reef-destroying, climate-polluting projects like the Adani coal mine to build jobs and infrastructure in regional and northern Queensland,” Mr McFadzean said.

“Clean renewable energy is booming in North Queensland, creating far more jobs and bringing much greater investment than polluting and harmful projects like the Adani mega mine.

“This is yet more proof that the best use of Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and Clean Energy Finance Corporation funds is supporting the clean energy of the future, not the dirty energy of the past.”

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