Qld Renewable Energy Taskforce asked to achieve impossible 50% target

Queensland’s Energy Minister Mark Bailey yesterday announced in a media release that “A formidable team of business, energy, and environmental experts will lead the public inquiry into establishing Queensland’s 50% renewable energy target by 2030.” Being led by a former Macquarie investment banker, the team certainly has some claim to being labelled formidable, but it will struggle with the task set for it by the Government, to “investigate and identify the pathway to adopting the target.” The problem the Taskforce faces is that there is no credible path for Queensland achieving this target by 2030. My strong feeling is that this is not enough time for the more than 5X increase in renewable energy generation required, even if one makes optimistic assumptions about the uptake of battery technology to store solar energy captured from rooftops.

Of course, the Government probably does not even care its target is unachievable, as there is only the remotest possibility it will still be in power in 2030. It appears to have set an unachievable feel good target for political purposes, knowing it will not be held accountable for missing the target in 2030. I actually hope the Government is this cynical, because it means they are less likely to enact costly policies (e.g. solar power subsidies) in pursuit of the ridiculous 50% target.

Finally, another major problem is that the Government is assuming its 50% renewable energy target is desirable in the first place, that it helps us meet our energy needs in the most cost-effective way (accounting for externalities such as any greenhouse gas-induced climate change, of course). I cannot find any research produced by or commissioned by the Government that proves this is the case. The Government needs to make a much stronger case for its renewable energy target, particularly given it goes far beyond the 20% target (for 2020) that was once set at the national level.

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7 Responses to Qld Renewable Energy Taskforce asked to achieve impossible 50% target

  1. Glen says:

    Gene if the govt was serious about an outcome they would ask the taskforce to look at projects in each area of the state to generate the power at a local level. The loss of power over long transmission lines is the greatest inefficiency of the entire network in Qld, regardless of how the power is generated. Second is where is the demand for this power going to come from, in Qld we have a declining mining and processing sector, manufacturing is shrinking, looking forward I would anticipate a drop in consumption, not an increase.

  2. Jann says:

    I agree with you Glen – Qld needs strategic renewable energy investment in regional areas to address transmissions losses (as well as loss of supply issues). How will this Taskforce engage with Ergon who are making key RE investment decisions? How will Ergon’s latest round of PPA negotiations result in strategic RE investment where we need it? What are the linkages between the QPC inquiries (pricing and solar feed in tariff) and this new Taskforce in developing a holistic energy policy and strategy for the State to address these issues in the long term? as well as the perennial issue of increasing electricity prices and reduced consumption, which is anticipated to only get worse not better. We need to look at the whole system and the future ‘distrupters’ and make decisions based on a clear pathway to a more affordable, efficient, secure, sustainable system – underpinned by regional energy generation. No body is pretending this will be easy but looking at one piece of the puzzle at a time isn’t going to do it.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Thanks for the comments, Glen and Jann. Yes, it’s very important to consider regional issues. The Taskforce certainly has a very big list of issues it will have to consider.

  3. John says:

    Thanks Gene,
    Just wondering if you have seen any laudable ways to account for the environmental externalities.
    Do you have thoughts about carbon taxes or cap and trade?
    John.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Yes, either a carbon tax or cap and trade/ETS are appropriate ways of accounting for the externality (Note there’s a technical debate about whether a carbon tax or ETS is best depending on the level of confidence you have in the required level of emissions reduction and the responsiveness of consumers and businesses to price changes). However, we really need the US and China to lead on the policy response to climate change. There is no point Australia implementing a carbon tax/ETS if the major emitters don’t.

  4. 800psi says:

    Boyne Island Produces 570,000 tonnes of aluminium/year@about 15000kw. That’s 10% of the Qld record peak demand in 2010, but probably closer to 20% in 2050, if current downward trends persist. With existing growth of renewables, I’d say that would get us to 50% easily.To close the refinery (and the power station in Gladstone) would directly cost 1300 people their jobs, and would be a huge hit to the regional economy, but Qld would meet its target. More interestingly, it wouldn’t necessarily help the global environment – production would be displaced elsewhere. Only if refineries ‘elsewhere’ were powered by renewables would there be an environmental benefit.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Thanks 800psi, an interesting hypothesis. It still seems like too much ground to make up to me but your hypothesis definitely makes me want to have a closer look at the data.

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