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North Queensland is turning sunshine into gold

In North Queensland, the old Kidston Gold Mine is in the process of being turned into a new pumped hydro station and a huge solar farm. The two mine pits will be filled with water, and the power of the sun will be used to pump the water up the hill, where it can be stored to produce electricity when it is most needed.

This is a perfect example of the changes happening in our energy system, where we can literally turn our sunshine into gold – and store it to use later.

Queensland destinations such as Cairns, Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef are a magnet for a nation of sunseekers, and the good news is that this world-beating sunshine can now produce some of the cheapest and cleanest electricity available today.

We all know that high power bills are the new barbecue stopper. But the easiest way to help cut our power bills is to build more renewable energy.

More wind and solar and energy storage means more low-cost power generation, which will increase competition in the energy system. That’s good for consumers. With more energy storage, we can use this clean energy when we need it most, as well as enjoying more energy independence from the big power companies.

Queensland already leads the nation in rooftop solar, as you would expect from the Sunshine State. It’s about to do the same with big solar as well.

Over 1000 jobs are set to be created in North Queensland from new renewable energy projects, along with almost $1.1 billion of new investment. This economic boost is good for both our air quality and our hip pockets.

As these projects and more enter the power system, the clean energy they produce will provide some relief for our power bills. And the Queensland Government’s current plan for a renewable energy future brings with it $3.5 billion in investment from private investors along with 3500 jobs.

The LNP supports renewable energy too and the industry absolutely welcomes that. There are some good ideas in its policy platform to streamline approvals for renewable energy projects and introduce more efficient regulation.

But a new coal plant in North Queensland doesn’t make sense. In August this year, Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison said “New cheap coal is a bit of a myth” and that it would take at least seven years to be up and running.

He’s right that the numbers don’t add up. Businesses are investing in renewables because new coal is about twice as expensive as new wind or solar power. The only way it would happen is if taxpayers foot the bill. It’s time to invest in an energy system for the 21st century.

It’s time to turn our amazing sunshine into gold – not look backwards towards Old King Coal.

The Clean Energy Council has released a list of policy priorities for Queensland which can help the state continue to shine after the election.

Click here for our project showcase on the Kidston Solar Project mentioned in the intro.

This opinion piece was originally published by the Townsville Bulletin. Thanks very much to its Deputy Editor Damien Tomlinson.