Queensland’s three ‘credible’ paths to 50% renewables by 2030

Queensland has three “credible” pathways to achieve its target of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030, a state government appointed panel has found, and each of them will create jobs, boost the economy, and be “cost neutral” to consumers.

In a direct smackdown to the “scare-mongering” of the federal Coalition government, the report says adding up to 5,500MW of new large-scale renewable energy capacity will cost one quarter of the amount suggested by federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg, and would have no deleterious impacts on energy reliability.

The report, from a five person team led by Macquarie Group banker Colin Mugglestone, and including energy consultant Paul Hyslop, University of Queensland’s Paul Meredith, the Climate Council’s Amanda McKenzie, says the plan will attract billions in investment and add $5 billion to gross state product.

The first two options are a choice between a “linear” approach to meeting the target, adding around 400-500MW a year, or a “ramp” approach, starting slow at around 200MW a year and then increasing the target to take advantage of falling technology costs.

The third option assumes a federal emissions reduction target of 45 per cent by 2030, in which case the modelling shows that Queensland would source around 41 per cent of its electricity from renewables. It would then use mechanisms such as reverse auctions to add another 1,900MW to top its share to 50 per cent.

All three scenarios are based on the fact that Queensland currently has about 700MW  of large-scale renewables (mostly hydro and biomass), just over 1,500MW of rooftop solar PV, and will build another 3,300MW by 2020 to meet its share of the federal 2020 target.

The scenarios suggest that it could use reverse auctions to find the cheapest “contract for difference” for a further 4,000MW to 5,500MW of large-scale capacity. Overall, by 2030, it expects around 7,000MW of large-scale solar and 2,000MW of large-scale wind.

The report also expects another 3,400MW of rooftop solar PV – mostly on industrial and commercial properties – as predicted by the Australian Energy Market Operator. All of this rooftop solar would be paid for by the households and businesses and would likely reduce their overall electricity bills. It would require no further subsidy.

In total, the modelling suggests around 14,100MW of current and new renewable energy capacity would be needed to deliver the about 33,000GWh a year needed to source 50 per cent of all electricity from renewables.

© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson