Queensland chooses sunshine over coal, to relief of solar industry

The medium-term future of the solar industry in Australia – along with several large-scale wind and hybrid projects, and some key storage installations – is back on stable ground, for now, with the likely re-election of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

The final result of the weekend poll, which is still being weighed up, could have a bearing on federal politics too, with the Queensland government unlikely to approve the federal government’s National Energy Guarantee.

Queensland Labor’s Palaszczuk went to the election with a slender lead in opinion polls and, according to the latest count on Wednesday, was headed for a majority of 47 seats, with 44 won, and another three looking likely to go to Labor.

This outcome, along with a stronger showing from The Greens, suggests a repudiation of coal-first policies of the LNP and One Nation, which voters seemed to understand would result in higher prices as well as being disastrous for the environment.

A win for Labor will mean Queensland’s 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030 would remain in place, and the 400MW renewable energy and storage auction would go ahead.

That auction made clear that there are some 9,000MW of wind, solar and biomass projects looking for development, and a further 6,000MW of storage potential – both battery and pumped hydro.

What will definitely not happen is a new coal-fired power generator – promised by the state and federal Coalition, and pushed for by a range of fossil fuel lobby groups in a series of extraordinary misinformation campaigns.

What is likely to happen, instead, is the creation of a third government-owned generation company, based around renewables and dispatchable power, that will “compete” with the two big coal-dominated companies Stanwell and CS Energy.

What is certain is the Queensland will continue to become the solar state – including the possibility for a solar thermal and storage plant for Townsville, and numerous other solar farms paired with battery storage.

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Giles Parkinson