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Queensland Sparks Interest in Renewable Energy


Last week marked a turning point for environmental activists when Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a plan that would transition the state from 80% fossil fuel reliance to 80% renewable energy by 2035. Queensland is Australia’s most coal-dependent state, and the shutdown of all coal generators opens the door to the possibility of Australia being 100% renewable. Palaszczuk said that two new targets would be legislated - by 2032, 70% of the state’s electricity would be renewable, and that would rise to 80% by 2035. 

The recent success of the Greens party and teal independents in the 2022 election marks a shift in the political atmosphere that sees more importance placed on discussions surrounding climate action. After years of seeming disinterested in renewable energy, Queensland’s new plan falls in line with growing consumer unrest and the desire to be seen as technologically ahead. Only a short time ago in 2021, any discussion regarding renewable energy in Queensland would ignite fierce discussions and stoke fears of job losses. However key to this new plan is a $150m ‘job security guarantee’ that will assist coal mine workers to find new careers or continue working at the sites. The other key item on the plan is the construction of the Pioneer-Burdekin pumped hydro plant west of Mackay - which would be the world’s largest hydro plant with 5GW of round-the-clock storage capacity. 

Under this plan, coal plants would be turned into clean energy hubs and the state would no longer rely on them for electricity. The projections show that coal plants would no longer provide power by 2037 - and gas suppliers aren’t happy about it. Amidst the transition to renewable energy the gas industry signed a domestic supply deal with the federal Labor government. The Government would have to pay up to $70/gigajoule for gas that would guarantee enough supply to Australian consumers and businesses instead of just being shipped overseas. For FY2019-2020, the gas market price for Victoria was $6.58/gigajoule. The price in no way reflects the cost of extraction and supply, and instead will result in exorbitantly increased gas and electricity prices. Giles Parkinsons, founder of Renew Economy, said that the deal has “all the hallmarks of a ransom note”. 

Despite this energy plan being a momentous turning point for renewable energy and sustainability efforts in Australia, there was little mainstream media coverage aside from independent and green energy-focused media. With the majority of news outlets in Australia being owned by Rupert Murdoch, who is notoriously invested in coal industries and against renewable energy, there is an active avoidance of sustainable energy reporting. In fact, they actively work to push against renewable energy developments by promoting misinformation and framing stories around the downsides of transitioning to sustainable energy sources - such as feeding into fears of job losses and increased costs to households. Reporting of sustainable energy developments is usually ill-informed and distorted, and reveals Murdoch media’s desire to hamstring any progress towards a renewable energy future in favour of a profit driven status quo that is destroying the planet.

Some people are skeptical of the Queensland government’s ability to actually enact their renewable energy plan - very valid given that they were not on track to meet their 2015 pledge of having 50% of electricity generated by 2030. Their new plan that raises that number to 70% by 2032 is optimistic at best, and now it remains to be seen if they can meet that optimism with equal action. 

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