Queensland Labor talks bold, promises little on renewable energy

Labor has released a policy statement boldly titled, A Solar Future. It needs to carry the accompanying line - 'how we'll study it but not implement it'.

The Queensland Labor Party released a policy statement on renewable energy last Friday full of platitudes with so much wriggle room that Treasury officials should have no difficulty hacking them apart if Labor ever manage to make it into government in the Queensland state election.

Of course Labor didn’t face much competition from Premier Campbell ‘We’re in the Coal Business’ Newman, who is yet to release any policy on reducing carbon emissions or promoting clean energy.

Framing the entire policy is a target of 50% renewable energy by 2030 – not to achieve it, but rather to study it.

And in case you might have actually taken them seriously, they’ve also said that as part of achieving such a goal they’ll be establishing an auction to acquire 40 megawatts of renewable energy. Given the state already has 12,000 megawatts of scheduled power generating already installed, you can get a sense of just how serious they are about cracking that 50% target.

By the way, Queensland householders and businesses themselves managed to install 250MW of solar last year so you can imagine what a huge difference Labor’s auction will make.  

Also, the latest analysis from Green Energy Markets suggests 5000 MW of large scale generation needs to be installed within the next two years to reach the federally mandated national Renewable Energy Target. So Queensland would have to be pretty unlucky to not see a measly 40MW of that installed in their state auction or no auction.

But the platitudes didn’t stop there. In addition Labor is targeting 1 million solar homes. What will it do to make it happen? 

It will look to ensure people get paid a fair price for power they export from their solar systems, apparently unlike what has happened under Campbell Newman

So what’s the fair price you ask?

Well, they’re going to leave that to their proposed new agency – the Queensland Productivity Commission. This will apparently be modelled on NSW’s IPART and Victoria’s Competition and Efficiency Commission as well as the federal Productivity Commission.

Yet these bodies have all pretty much recommended prices and approaches similar to what Campbell Newman ultimately implemented.

So what useful might be salvaged from this tokenism?

A state government underwritten auction to pay for renewable energy, along the lines of what has been implemented by the ACT Government, could play a useful, short-term role in overcoming the regulatory uncertainty surrounding the existing federal government’s Renewable Energy Target. But 40MW is too small to make any meaningful difference.

Also, an inquiry into prices paid for exports of power from customer-embedded power generation (not just solar) could be useful if it was focused on three things which have been largely ignored in prior inquiries:

  1. How the regional uniform power pricing policy acts to undermine the efficient use of any form of energy production or energy saving technology other than that provided by Ergon.
  2. How the use of transparent price signals could be employed to promote demand-side technologies in competition with monopoly power networks.
  3. Improving the transparency of data on what sections of the power network can and cannot support in terms of embedded generation and the evidence behind the technical requirements governing connection of embedded generation of sizes greater than 10 kilowatts.  

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