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Renewable energy zones to supercharge Queensland clean energy investment

The Clean Energy Council welcomes the commitment of the Palaszczuk Government to unlock three renewable energy zones (REZs) across North, Central and south-west Queensland as part of the state’s economic recovery plan.

“Grid congestion is the biggest underlying challenge facing new investment in large-scale renewable energy in Queensland,” says Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton. “Accelerating construction and expansion of the transmission network will unlock new private sector investment in large-scale renewable energy.”

REZs provide much needed additional electricity transmission infrastructure in designated areas, where it can be carefully planned in consultation with the community and support new renewable energy investment in an efficient way that benefits consumers and communities.

In addition to network investment, other positive initiatives announced as part of the Queensland REZs include streamlining the development of new renewable energy projects, support for the deployment of new energy storage and work to attract new industries to these zones.

“Queensland has among the best renewable energy resources in Australia and stand-out potential to become a clean energy superpower leveraging its low-cost renewable electricity, strong skills base and trade links with southern states and Asia,” says Thornton.

Around 5500 MW of large-scale renewable energy generation is needed between now and 2030 to meet Queensland’s target of 50 per cent renewable energy, which could attract almost $10 billion of private investment and create more than 10,000 jobs.

“Investors stand at the ready, with around 17,000 MW of new large-scale renewable energy projects having already secured planning approvals if the regulatory and market conditions are right,” says Thornton. “However, while the state has made significant strides during the past four years in raising the level of clean energy generation off a low-base, investment in Queensland is stagnating.

“This is in large part due to inadequate transmission capacity, the many complex hurdles for connecting new generators and increasing constraints being placed on many operating solar and wind farms. The lack of long-term federal energy policy has also played a material role in this slow down.”

Only three large-scale projects were financially committed in the 18 months between January 2019 and June 2020. This compares with eight projects being financially committed during the 2018 calendar year and 19 projects in the 2017 calendar year.

“State government leadership to turbo-charge the development of Queensland’s REZs is what is needed to get the Sunshine State’s renewable energy sector moving again, and the jobs and regional economic activity that comes with it,” says Thornton.

New South Wales has announced the development of two REZs over the past year, and these have been attracting high levels of investor interest, with the state now enjoying the highest level of investor confidence in the country according to the Clean Energy Council’s latest CEO Investor Confidence Index.

A recent market testing exercise to identify renewable energy development interest in the NSW Central West Orana REZ, which can accommodate 3 GW of renewable energy, attracted 113 registrations of interest totalling 27 GW valued at $38 billion.