The best kept secret: ALP electricity policy for Queensland

I came across it via Facebook around midnight on Saturday night. Not sure when it was released but there’s been nothing in the media yet about it. Surely there will be, because it is more than a little stunning. It’s called Powering Queensland’s Future: Affordable, Stable and Balanced.

From a standing start after the LNP under Campbell Newman had ‘cleansed’ the state of renewable energy projects, since February 2015 the Palaszczuk Labor government has enough runs on the board to be dubbed “a leader in Australia’s renewable energy boom” in a report by The Climate Council – Billion dollar boom: Queensland’s bright renewables future. I’ll summarise what they said, but the Palaszczuk government is running even faster and further than you would be led to believe in that report.

The Climate Council’s key finding include:

  • Queensland, the aptly named “Sunshine State” is a leader in household solar, 31.6% of households in the state now have solar rooftops.
  • There are 14 postcodes in Queensland where more than 50% of households have rooftop solar. Elimbah leads the state with 63% of households with rooftop solar.
  • The state has the greatest number of large-scale renewable energy projects under construction in Australia, representing a quarter of capacity under construction, $1.6 billion in investment and over 1,300 new renewable energy construction jobs.
  • Queensland wind and solar projects have set some of the lowest prices for new power generation of any fuel source in Australia. For example, the Coopers Gap wind farm in Queensland has set a record low price of under $60/MWh.
  • Queensland leads in integrating large-scale solar with energy storage technology. There are several projects underway in North Queensland combining solar and energy storage, including Lakeland (solar and battery storage), Kennedy Energy Park (solar, wind and battery storage) and Kidston (solar and pumped hydro).

Remember, Queensland was virtually a renewables energy desert when Newman and current LNP leader Tim Nicholls left the treasury benches. Look at it now:

The ALP’s Powering Queensland Plan and Powering North Queensland Plan claims to have kick-started Queensland’s transition to a clean energy future, with its 50 per cent renewable energy target creating a stable investment environment, unleashing a renewable energy boom:

    During the current term of the Palaszczuk Government, three large-scale solar farms have commenced operation and, by October 2017, a further 21 were committed or under construction, with those committed projects set to deliver 1,900MW of generation capacity, $3.7 billion in investment and almost 3,000 construction jobs primarily in regional Queensland.

    That’s 24 projects being delivered under the Palaszczuk Government compared to the Newman-Nicholls Government’s record of zero. Queensland now has the most large-scale renewable projects under construction of any state in Australia. More is on the way with another 8,8,800 MW of proposed large-scale renewable energy projects at earlier stages of development – $20 billion investment which would support 15,000 jobs.

I decided to check whether this was a mystic dream and how much had been registered with AEMO, the market operator:

As with the map above, that’s not very legible either, so here’s the story.

Existing renewables add up to 1064 MW. Committed is 463.3. In the ‘proposed’ line there is a total of 5043.2 MW. Add those three up and you get 6,569.5 MW.

The total existing capacity is 12,563.7 MW. That’s excluding rooftop solar, where over 450,000 Queensland homes now have solar panels, with the combined capacity of 1,800 MW of generation, larger than the 1,680 MW Gladstone power station, the largest in the state. So leaving rooftops aside, the existing, committed and proposed renewable amount to around 52% of current capacity.

The ALP policy of 50% renewables by 2030 seems well in hand, but there are two considerations here. First, I assume the renewables would be couched in terms of ‘name-plate’ capacity. They would seldom if ever operate at that capacity.

Second, that is also true of conventional generation. I don’t know, but my guess is that Queensland normal generation is around 7,000 MW.

You can check live generation any time roughly at RenewEconomy’s NemWatch site supplied by Global Roam (I think a Brisbane firm) which gives generation type, or more accurately the live dashboard at AEMO, which gives generation and demand, plus price and how the supply is flowing between the states. Queensland is almost always feeding NSW, which is feeding Victoria. When I looked just now SA was feeding Victoria, which was feeding Tasmania.

Price was $66 in Qld, $73 in NSW and around $111 in SA and Victoria.

ALP policy claims that Queensland has the most secure and stable system in the NEM (National Electricity Market), which is probably true since the fossil powered fleet is younger than those in NSW and Victoria.

The AEMO table includes 2045 MW of OCGT, by which I understand fast-peaking gas. This is not mentioned in the ALP policy, but would complement the renewables program. Largely because of the high rooftop solar penetration AEMO sees energy markets being reshaped over the next 20 years, so in summer the Queensland daily minimum demand is estimated at around 3000 MWh in the middle of the day, followed by a peak of about 10,000 MWh a few hours later. ‘Baseload’ coal simply won’t cope with this new demand profile. While the ALP policy does not call for gas in this context, the mantra is “flexible dispatchable energy”:

    We will ensure that Queensland’s electricity generation includes the right mix of solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind generation, with
    battery and pumped hydro storage, as well as flexible, dispatchable forms of new generation like the concentrated solar thermal plant which uses molten salt storage to power Las Vegas at night.

    Queensland’s abundant natural resources mean that renewable generation can power Queensland 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – even when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

This photo is featured:

The ALP policy seems well-placed to transition to renewable energy, whereas the LNP policy seems stuck well back in the 20th century, relying on ‘baseload coal’, which the ALP policy, correctly, I think, and supported by both Finkel and a BNF study in the Climate Council report linked above, sees as 34 per cent more expensive.

Voters, however, no doubt have prices and jobs front of mind.


It is claimed that the Newman-Nicholls policies lost 2,860 jobs in the renewable energy sector, which have been more than replaced by Palaszczuk government initiatives. Under “announced projects” that could grow to 15,000 jobs:

There has been a lot of loose talk about jobs accruing from the Adani mine. Everyone should read Geoff Henderson’s guest post on the Adani project, plus the links at the end. Adani under oath admitted that there would only be 1460 net new jobs. Nicholls has been using the fake “10,000 jobs” which I heard him alter to “tens of thousands of jobs”.

In fact (see the Australia Institute study on winners and losers by Queensland electorate) Townsville will gain a few jobs at the margin, Mackay will lose jobs, as will Gladstone. Rockhampton will, I think, struggle to get into the black. The problem is that Galilee coal will largely displace other Australian coal, especially, by the way, in the Hunter Valley.

Compare that with the ALP Powering North Queensland Plan:

    Under our $386 million [plan], we are developing a North Queensland Clean Energy hub – strategic transmission infrastructure linking up to 2,000 MW of large-scale renewable energy projects including peak hydro and 24 hour dispatchable clean energy, supporting up to 4,600 jobs.


The LNP plan cherry-picked spot prices, and passed them off as the wholesale price (they are in fact the top-up part of the wholesale price) and gave us the impression they were talking about electricity bills, which also contain the network and other supply charges, as well as any retail mark-up. In any case, with 70% of the generation in government hands and all of the distribution networks, there is discretion about how much the government takes from the electricity system for general revenue. In other states there is no discretion – the profits go to private enterprise.

The ALP show two graphs. First the increase in wholesale prices under Newman-Nicholls:

And then the wholesale price from 1 March to 29 October 2017:

I’ve done a number of posts on electricity prices and Queensland electricity. I’d think the figures are probably accurate, and in the circumstances not unfair.

In this post electricity expert Hugh Grant told us via the ABC that the Palaszczuk government took $3 billion out of the electricity system, compared to the Newman government $5 billion. The ALP claims bills went up 43% under Newman, and elsewhere (not in this document) that under Palaszczuk they went up 5% from February 2015 to when the Queensland Competition Authority set regional prices to apply from 1 July 2017, thus also setting the standard offer in SEQ.

The stunning fact is that since then, as I reported in Electricity bills – Queensland acts because it can this happened:

    By keeping our assets in public hands we have been able to take action on network, wholesale and retail costs. Modelling by ACIL Allen shows that our actions have reduced bill increases by $146 this year and $210 next year.

That’s 16.1% on an average bill, and do you know it has not been reported anywhere since it was announced on 25 October? For a while it was in an article my wife saw on Brisbane Times (she quoted the figures), but then it mysteriously disappeared.

Nicholls, if elected, will be able to keep his promise of putting downward pressure on electricity prices by pretending that he did it, whereas it has already been done by Labor.

Other provisions

There is more in the document, including the following:

  • CleanCO, a new government-owned renewable energy generator, will be established to deliver 1000 MW of power by 2025.
  • The Palaszczuk Government will also commit $97 million for 800 schools, with 300 extra jobs. This includes $40 million for 35 MW of solar PV generation and $57 million for energy efficiency measures.

Climate change

The Nicholls government sees money spent on renewables as wasted. They are all but openly climate denialist. The ALP policy is explicit in seeing renewables as necessary to save the Great Barrier Reef.

Please see my recent post Climate change: the end of civilisation as we know it and other posts under the tag Dangerous climate change. Tim Nicholls, the LNP, and One Nation, which will be part of the package, will contribute to putting the future of the planet at risk, and civilisation as we know it. That’s not alarmist, just the simple truth.

Breaking news

The Courier Mail this morning ran a scare on blackouts 15% of the time, that’s over two months, on the basis of a report by Jonathon Pavetto, an economist who ran unsuccessfully for the LNP against Bob Katter. The report was commissioned by The Australian Institute of Progress, run by Graham Young, a former Liberal Party operative and failed candidate, who is a rabid free-market ideologue and an outright climate change denier.

Local ABC Mornings presenter Steve Austin had interviews with Pavetto, Malcolm Turnbull, Mark Bailey, as well as hearing from Young in his regular political discussion which includes former Labor MP and academic Dr Mary Crawford.

First Turnbull.

He mischaracterised SA blackouts as due to renewables and blamed them for high electricity prices.

The blackouts in September were caused by a dirty big storm and in February AEMO, the market operator was asleep at the wheel. The prices are due to the greater use of gas, which in SA is the most expensive in Australia. Sure coal was closed down, partly by being undercut by wind, but the stations were old, dirty to their local communities, and unreliable.

Then Turnbull rambled about pumped hydro, concentrating in his Snowy 2.0 dream, neglecting small-scale pumped hydro, which is competitive. He also neglected demand response, or demand management.

Then Pavetto.

His equation was simple. If we have 50% renewables we have to reduce current coal, which is 78% of supply, by 28%. Coal stations have to close, and he nominated Tarong, Stanwell and Gladstone identified in a AEMO report. He had no feel for storage options with renewables, and was unaware that in Germany, for example, coal stations that close have to be on 10 days notice of re-opening for four years.

Mark Bailey.

Yes, he’d seen the AEMO report, and it was narrowly focussed, completely ignoring Queensland’s renewables program. Bailey said, we own the stations, we have no plans to close them, they will continue to support the system as necessary.

Austin then took up the cudgels for Pavetto, saying that if Pavetto’s report was about renewables, “the very premise underlying the report”, then he couldn’t have ignored them. But, quite simply, Pavetto based his report on an AEMO report that did. Austin can never accept that anyone defending the current Labor government might have a point.

Bailey made some other points, citing a different AEMO report that found the Queensland system the most stable in the country over the next 10 years, about Queensland wholesale prices currently being $10 per MWh below interstate, that we supplied 1GW of power to NSW to keep Malcolm Turnbull’s lights on in his mansion in February, and that Turnbull’s NEM was broken and he wasn’t fixing it.

Graham Young’s remarks aren’t worth repeating. If you select your expert, you can get just about any report you want on electricity.

There appears to be a report from Chief Economist Alan Finkel coming out today, which Turnbull spent some time slagging off about before he’d read it.

I have been following Steve Austin. My wife won’t listen any more and made a complaint to the ABC main switchboard. I have a tag for him here. Today he turned from electricity to inviting people who thought Campbell Newman had done a good job to ring up and tell us about it.

The ABC should stand him aside until after the election.

However, I think the Palszczuk has done remarkably well for what Turnbull calls a “lazy, do-nothing, left-wig, green-left government”. Says more about him, really. He degrades everything he touches.

See also:

LNP pledges cheap electricity for Queensland – vision splendid or hoax?

Plus the posts listed at the end of that post.

7 thoughts on “The best kept secret: ALP electricity policy for Queensland”

  1. I’m expecting the family from SA to arrive any minute. We are going up the coast for a few days.

    May get a few minutes at the screen tonight.

    Had to get this one out. I rang up Steve Austin today. They said “please wait” then the phone dropped out.

  2. That is a brilliant catalogue at the end, Brian. Forward the whole thread file to Jess Hill (of “Power Corrupts” fame) for her comment. She might be able to add to it, get it published and expose the miss representation.

    Big tick for Palaszczuk (big tick for me if I got the spelling right).

    Campbell Newman was a disaster for Queensland and Australia. The shear damage he did was horrific. One of the programmes he killed (I believe) was Queensland’s funding TB treatment doctors working in Irian Jaya just across the water from Torres Strait Islands thereby exposing those islands and Northern Australia to the huge risk of antibiotic resistant TB. I was told by one of the doctors who I met that it is claimed that the Indonesian Military brought in TB infected prostitutes to that area intentionally to infect the people of the area as a kind of local genocide. This is as I heard it.

  3. BilB, I don’t know how to do twitter.

    Finkel today is saying that 50% is quite doable, and that you don’t need to worry too much about storage until penetration gets to 75%.

    I could be wrong, but that’s what I’m picking up.

  4. Brian: I have been saying for a while that Qld really is doing a good job with renewables and the renewable mix. This post provides the figures to back up that statement

  5. John, I knew they were doing well, but surpised at just how well when you see it all together.

    Steve Austin has been replaced by Kelly Higgins-Devine this morning, just now interviewing Jo-Ann Miller. Jo-Ann knows about the Wood Mackenzie report and is setting them straight on Adani. Her electorate is next door to Palaszczuk’s and she says they are good mates, which may surprise some.

    Kelly H-D is one of the ABC’s best.

    Signing off now till Friday. Be good!

  6. Brian,

    On July 5, I prepared and delivered a PowerPoint slide presentation in person to the NSW Member for Bathurst, Paul Toole MP, concerning Australia and NSW’s looming energy security challenges. This presentation was like the one I provided in person to the Federal Member for Calare, Andrew Gee MP, shown here included as part of my correspondence to the Senate NAIF inquiry.

    My presentation to Paul Toole MP was forwarded as a representation in July to the NSW Minister for Resources, Energy and Utilities, Don Harwin MLC.

    Last week, I received a letter from Paul Toole MP, with an attached response from Minister Don Harwin MLC, dated 24 October 2017, which included these selected statements (that may be of interest to you in comparing NSW’s energy transition plans with Queensland’s):

    I appreciate the time and effort Mr Miell has put into his presentation and I note his insights into energy security. I understand Mr Miell has had discussions with the Department of Planning and Environment about his analysis.

    Mr Miell may wish to know that the NSW Government is committed to a reliable affordable and clean energy future for the state’s households and businesses. NSW is transitioning to a clean energy future. Over the past five years, the share of renewable energy in the state’s supply mix has more than doubled.

    NSW saw a landmark year for renewables in 2016, with 19.6 per cent of generation coming from clean energy sources, which is the highest on record. More renewable energy investment is occurring with around 1,000 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar farms under construction across the state. This is in addition to the 10,000 MW of large-scale renewable energy projects that are currently approved or seeking approval in NSW, representing $14 billion of potential investment.

    This project pipeline highlights the government’s success in implementing the NSW Renewable Energy Action Plan, which was released in 2013 to increase renewable energy at least cost to the energy consumer and with maximum benefits to the state.

    In addition to attracting new renewable energy generation, we need to look at how that power can be dispatched when it is needed. The government is working to encourage investment in those technologies – from large-scale storage to demand response – that will be needed to guarantee energy security and reliability.

    The government’s co-funding of the $15 million NSW Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) Demand Response Program enhances NSW energy security for this summer, as well as supports the establishment of a demand response market in Australia.

    The NSW Government will continue to support a sensible, national renewable energy target and is committed to ensuring a transition to a secure, affordable and clean energy future for its households and businesses.

    Key questions left unanswered include: what proportion of the 10,000 MW of new generation approved/proposed includes energy storage; and what is the magnitude/capacity of this energy storage? Are there plans/proposals for solar thermal with storage generation, or pumped-hydro? I hope some of these answers may be revealed soon.

    On February 21, NSW Minister Don Harwin announced the establishment of a new NSW Energy Security Taskforce. The Taskforce is required to look at how NSW manages electricity system energy security and resilience, including readiness, planning, preparation and response capability to extreme events such as weather. NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer, Professor Mary O’Kane AC, has been appointed Chair of the Taskforce, and is joined on the Taskforce by former NSW Police Force Deputy Commissioner Dave Owens and Dr Brian Spalding, a commissioner on the Australian Energy Market Commission.

    The Taskforce published its initial report on 22 May 2017, looking at short-term issues. Its final report is due before Christmas 2017, looking at the medium- to longer-term issues.

    A copy of my PowerPoint slide presentation to Paul Toole MP, was forwarded by me to the NSW Energy Security Taskforce on July 6, not intended as a submission, but as information to hopefully assist/stimulate the Taskforce into expanding/extending lines of their inquiry.

    It will be interesting to see the quintessence of the Taskforce’s final report released in a few weeks’ time, likely during the beginning of the ‘silly season’ when most people are distracted by other things. I think the Taskforce’s final report should be a critical document for NSW’s energy secure future – I hope Professor O’Kane’s Taskforce has the integrity and competence to clearly define the effective path forward, and avoid producing a politically sanitised, watered-down, ineffective course.

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