Queensland pressed to build 5.5GW of renewables by 2030

The state needs to undertake auctions of up to 400MW by 2020 to help it meet its clean energy target, a report says.

The Renewable Energy Expert Panel, a taskforce established by the Queensland government, is recommending renewables auctions of up to 400MW prior to 2020 as part of efforts to achieve the Australian state’s 50 percent renewable energy target by 2030.

Queensland currently produces the most greenhouse gas emissions among all states in Australia, with power generation the single largest source, according to a draft report available on the taskforce’s website. The report argued that the region has enough solar and wind resources to help it meet its ambitious target, with a current project pipeline of around 2.5GW of committed and proposed large-scale renewables generation capacity.

A renewables shortfall could materialise before 2020, however: the report forecasts 4.3GW of renewable capacity to be available nationally by 2020 for offtake contracts, well short of the 6GW required. The panel says some of the catch-up should be done by Queensland and urges its government to undertake auctions over the coming two years calling for the creation of 400MW of additional renewables capacity by 2020.

Beyond the end of this decade, the panel also suggests three possible pathways the state could take to reach its renewables target. 

A first, “linear” pathway assumes a uniform annual rate of renewables construction while the “ramp” option would see Queensland ramp-up projects in a bid to capitalise on falling costs over the period. Under these two scenarios, 4GW to 5.5GW of new large-scale renewable energy capacity will be required between 2020 and 2030. 

The third pathway, dubbed “stronger national action”, describes what would happen were the state government to put a stronger emissions reduction scheme in place to have a 45 percent cut in electricity sector emissions on 2005 levels by 2030. Only 1.9GW of additional capacity would be required in this case. 

“There is no requirement for additional financial incentives to support investment in small-scale renewables in Queensland,” the panel found. “However, there is merit in addressing regulatory and other non-price barriers to greater uptake of small-to-medium scale solar, particularly at the commercial scale.” 

The panel notes that there might be potential decreases in power demand in the region due to improved energy efficiency or the closure of large industrial complexes. Should they materialise, large-scale renewables capacity requirement would likely fall to around 4GW after 2020.