Queensland announces $1.16b energy plan

In a major pre-Budget announcement, the Queensland government has announced a $1.16 billion plan to ensure affordable, secure and sustainable energy.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today announced the Powering Queensland plan – a roadmap to put downward pressure on electricity prices, power jobs and investment and lead the state’s transition to a low-carbon electricity sector.

“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,” the Premier said.

“That’s why last week my government took swift action in response to the QCA’s regional price determination, investing $770 million to slash the price increase by more than half.

“My government is committed to delivering stable electricity prices which have increased by just 1.9 per cent per year on average under our first term.

“The Powering Queensland Plan – which includes the $386 million plan to strengthen and diversify North Queensland’s energy and water supply which I announced in Townsville on Friday – is by far the most comprehensive and decisive action by a state government to deal with Australia’s current energy crisis.”

The plan includes the restart of Stanwell’s 385MW Swanbank E gas-fired power station, as well as a reverse auction for up to 400MW of renewable energy, including 100MW of energy storage.

Treasurer Curtis Pitt said Queensland has a highly secure energy supply, including the four youngest and cleanest coal-fired generators in the National Electricity Market; however ongoing vigilance is needed to ensure our future energy security.

“The Powering Queensland plan includes commissioning the Energy Security Taskforce – a team of experts to guide the state’s robust energy security for both the short and long-term which includes implementing the Finkel Review recommendations,” he said.

“The Taskforce will implement Finkel Review outcomes accepted by Queensland, providing options for maintaining system security and reliability to power our communities and industries with the energy and the jobs of the future.”

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.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton welcomed the announcement as a strong and comprehensive package, which will ensure greater energy security and increased competition in the state’s energy market.

Mr Thornton said reverse auctions – where project developers bid to build projects at the lowest possible price – had been pioneered with great success and record low project cost in Australia by the ACT Government.

“The whole energy industry is hopeful that the final report from the Chief Scientist’s review of Australia’s energy security this week will provide a reset point and potentially broker a renewed spirit of bipartisanship,” he said.

“But it is understandable that states like Queensland are being proactive in providing the long-term investment certainty the sector needs to invest in new power generation.”