Media - Solar Citizens

Media Releases

Townsville Hydrogen Cluster Announcement Just the First Step

3 December 2021: Townsville Hydrogen Cluster Announcement Just the First Step

Solar Citizens today welcomes the announcement that National Energy Resources Australia (NERA) has named Townsville a hydrogen cluster, but says federal funding is still required to get local proposed projects off the ground.

“It’s great that there’s now some recognition from a federal body that Townsville is an ideal place to set up a new renewable hydrogen industry. Now what we really need to see is the Federal government name Townsville as a priority for hydrogen hub funding,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens. 

“The Morrison government has allocated $464 million for hydrogen grants and Townsville is still not seen as a priority location for that funding to be spent, which is mind-boggling given North Queensland’s impressive solar and wind resources.

“North Queensland is perfectly placed to benefit from the world’s shift to a cleaner economy because you’ve got sunshine 320 days a year, wind that blows in the evening and minerals deposits needed for battery storage technology.

“A new report from Deloitte yesterday showed that Queensland’s economy can grow by seven percent and employ a million more people as we transition to net zero if governments plan and manage the economic transformation well. 

“If we want to tap into Townsville’s incredible potential to be a clean manufacturing powerhouse then we need all levels of government to be showing leadership in this space and providing adequate funding.”

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Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

Vanadium Plant Applauded as a Win for Townsville

23 November: Vanadium Plant Applauded as a Win for Townsville

The Queensland government’s commitment to build and own a new vanadium processing plant in Townsville has today been applauded by community group Solar Citizens. 

“This is a smart investment by the Queensland government that is a step towards turning Townsville into a renewable industry hub,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens. 

“North Queensland’s mineral deposits and natural renewable resources mean Townsville is perfectly placed to process minerals for clean technology and produce renewable hydrogen for export. Investing in these opportunities will create good, future-proof jobs for the region.

“It’s a shame that the Morrison government is not taking this potential as seriously. They are overlooking Townsville as one of the country’s planned hydrogen hubs and Queensland is still waiting for a slice of federal clean energy funding.

“The Federal government has provided significant clean energy funding to states like South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania, but Queensland is still waiting for an energy and emissions reduction funding deal.

“If we want to tap into Townsville’s incredible potential to be a clean manufacturing powerhouse then we need support from all levels of government.”

[ENDS] 

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

Coal States Record Highest Electricity Prices

22 November 2021: Coal States Record Highest Electricity Prices

The recently released Wholesale Markets Quarterly report from the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) shows the most coal dependent States in Australia’s National Electricity Market recorded the highest wholesale power prices over the last quarter. 

Queensland had the highest prices at $90/MWh, followed by New South Wales at $88/MWh, Victoria at $64/MWh, South Australia at $63/MWh, and Tasmania at $27/MWh. Queensland has the lowest share of renewable electricity at around 20% whereas Tasmania is 100% renewable.

“This last quarter Queensland and New South Wales had high electricity prices due to high coal prices and outages at ageing coal-fired power stations,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens. 

“States with more renewable energy generation have cheaper prices in part because solar and wind plants don’t need to pay fuel costs. 

“This report also shows that Australia’s 3 million solar homes and businesses are doing their part to drive down electricity prices, with a record number of negative pricing events occurring in the middle of the day.”

Wholesale electricity prices can go negative when there’s low electricity demand and abundant solar energy available. In the third quarter of 2021 prices were negative 25% of the time in South Australian and 20% of the time in Victoria.

The AER report also shows a staggering 1,200 megawatts of new wind, battery and solar capacity entered the market in July, August and September.

“Australia’s coal-fired power stations are getting older and we’re seeing regular unplanned outages, which drives up the cost of electricity for consumers,” said Ms Gray.

“The good news is that coal dependent States like New South Wales and Victoria have visions to build out Renewable Energy Zones so that by 2030 the lion’s share of their electricity will come from clean and cheap renewables. 

“Now we need the Queensland government to follow suit and plan for an ambitious renewable rollout so that consumers living in the Sunshine State aren’t paying top dollar for electricity.”

Solar Citizens is calling on the Queensland government to ensure at least 2,000MW of new renewable energy generation is added to each of Queensland’s three Renewable Energy Zone regions by 2025.

Last things first: WA Government rushing to cut off solar households

15 November 2021: Last things first: WA Government rushing to cut off solar households

The Western Australian Government wants to switch off rooftop solar systems as a ‘last resort’ measure for stabilising the grid, but has given no detail on other steps to be taken first, how much it would cost, how often it could happen, or how solar households could be affected.  

The WA Government is seeking to fast-track a recommendation by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to give AEMO the power to cut off solar homes and businesses from exporting to the grid when abundant solar generation and low demand combine to make it hard for AEMO to manage any system issues. The change would apply to all new and upgraded solar systems sized 5KW or under, with systems over 5KW to face different rules yet to be announced by Western Power.

“WA has a great challenge. Many households and businesses are embracing solar but AEMO has not been prepared for this and is now seeking to control small household solar systems.” said Dr Gabrielle Kuiper, an adviser to the Smart Energy Council.

In July, the new AEMO CEO, Daniel Westerman announced a tiered approach to periods of extreme minimum system load, a protocol equivalent to the lack of reserve (LOR) notices used for the Reliability & Emergency Reserve Trader (RERT) scheme for periods of extreme peak demand.

Dr Kuiper said, “What is disappointing is that there is no sign of this new Minimum System Load protocol in WA, nor the new approach to collaboration and consultation with consumers that Mr Westerman also announced.

“AEMO and Western Power have not seemingly prioritised ‘first resort’ changes such as working with commercial and industrial users to increase loads or with large generators to decrease generation at low load times” said Dr Kuiper.

Last week, 127 members of community advocacy group Solar Citizens made submissions to the WA Government, calling for more investigation of alternatives to switching off solar to ensure it really is used as a last resort.

“The WA Government and AEMO want the go ahead to cut off people’s solar, but we need more transparency around when it could be used or what the financial impact could be for solar homes and businesses,” said Solar Citizens’ National Director Ellen Roberts. 

“AEMO is right in saying that switching off solar should be a last resort, but they want to push ahead without a clear plan for what the first, second, or third resorts might be. 

“Solar homes and businesses are doing much of the heavy lifting to transition our energy system and bring down emissions. Rushing to cut off solar could waste all of that abundant and cheap clean energy.

“We need to see a real plan from the WA Government to roll out smarter solutions first, like more community and household batteries, incentives for households and businesses to use more power during the day, electrification of gas hot water and appliances and dynamically managing solar exports.”

[ENDS]

Media contact:

Ellen Roberts (National Director, Solar Citizens) 0408 583 694

Dr Gabrielle Kuiper: 0410 324 942

Queensland announces Renewable Energy Zone ambition

16 November: Queensland announces Renewable Energy Zone ambition

The Queensland government has announced they plan to unlock 3,300MW of new renewable energy generation in the initial stages of developing their three Renewable Energy Zone regions. 

Southern Queensland is expected to host the lion’s share of new renewable energy projects with grid upgrades allowing 2,000MW of new renewable energy projects to connect locally. Central Queensland will receive investment to host another 800MW, while a 500MW upgrade has already been announced for Northern Queensland. 

Across Australia the need for more grid infrastructure has been a major hurdle that has slowed investment in new renewable energy projects. A Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) is a region with good renewable energy resources where it is strategic to build or upgrade infrastructure so new solar, wind and storage projects can connect to the grid. 

Community group Solar Citizens welcomes the announcement, but says the State government’s ambition is dwarfed by other states. 

“Both New South Wales and Victoria have announced Renewable Energy Zone targets that will propel them towards becoming clean energy and hydrogen superpowers,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens. 

“Victoria has a 10,000MW target while New South Wales is aiming to bring online 12,000MW of new renewable energy projects and 2,000MW of storage by 2030. Queensland’s plan to unlock 3,300MW looks measly in comparison.

“The Sunshine State has all the right ingredients to kick-start new industries in areas like renewable hydrogen production and battery manufacturing for electric vehicles. We’ve got critical mineral resources needed for clean technology, a skilled workforce and the possibility for abundant and cheap renewable energy.

“But unless we at least match the ambition of other Australian states, we risk investors taking their funding elsewhere.

“We’re calling on the Queensland government to ensure at least 2,000MW of new renewable energy generation is added to each of Queensland’s three RenewableEnergy Zone regions by 2025 so the State doesn’t miss out on new clean energy industries.”

Last year the Queensland government announced $145 million to establish three Renewable Energy Zones. So far they have allocated $62 million of this to underpin a transmission upgrade in Far North Queensland and undertake a business case analysis of the Borumba pumped hydro project. 

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Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

Queensland Falls Behind NSW, Vic in REZ Rollout

1 November 2021: Queensland Falls Behind NSW, Vic in REZ Rollout

Queensland is estimated to fall short of its 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 target with new Australian government projections showing the Sunshine State is only on track to reach 43 per cent. This puts other Australian states well ahead of Queensland with New South Wales estimated to reach 84 per cent by 2030, Victoria 61 per cent, and South Australia 96 per cent.

This comes as a new report by community group Solar Citizens says that the Queensland government is falling behind other States in the Renewable Energy Zone rollout and can do a lot more to set the stage for hosting the world’s first climate positive Olympics.

“We did a deep dive looking at Queensland’s progress on emissions reduction and the rollout of clean energy and found the Sunshine State gets a bronze medal where we really should be going for gold before the 2032 Olympics,” said Stephanie Gray, Solar Citizens’ Energy Strategist. 

“The Queensland government and state-owned energy companies have announced a series of exciting commitments lately that will see a number of new large-scale renewable energy projects come online, but after years of dragging their feet there’s much more to do to even reach our existing emission reduction and clean energy targets.

“Hosting a climate positive Olympics means we have to drastically overhaul our energy and transport sectors over the next 11 years. The 2012 London Olympics produced as much carbon pollution as running a whole coal-fired power station for a year.”

Solar Citizens notes that Queensland is behind New South Wales and Victoria in the rollout of Renewable Energy Zones, with both southern states having set targets for unlocking a substantial amount of new renewable energy and storage projects. Victoria has a 10,000MW target while New South Wales is aiming to bring online 12,000MW of new renewable energy projects and 2,000MW of storage by 2030. Queensland has no target. 

“Announcing three Renewable Energy Zones is a hollow commitment without a target for how much renewable energy we’re going to unlock with new infrastructure,” said Ms Gray.

“Over the last few years we’ve seen investment in large-scale renewables go from boom to bust in Queensland because there’s a pressing need for new infrastructure and energy policy certainty.

“We would like to see the Queensland government ensure that at least 2,000MW of new renewable energy is added to each of Queensland’s Renewable Energy Zones by 2025 on top of the projects already under construction. This will set us on the right track to meet new manufacturing and transport demand with affordable and clean energy.”

Other key findings of the report include:

  • Queensland currently has 37 large-scale solar and wind farms operating across the state, with a further eight large-scale renewable projects under construction. The projects currently under construction are powering 6,300 jobs and represent a substantial 1,757MW of new generation capacity for Queensland. A further four projects are likely to proceed to construction in the coming years.

  • As of 2019, Queensland’s emissions were approximately 14% lower than 2005 levels. There’s still a long way to go to reach the existing 30% by 2030 target and then go beyond that for the 2032 climate positive Olympics.

  • Queensland now has over 800,000 solar homes and businesses and 4,125MW of installed rooftop solar capacity across the state. According to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) this could rise up to 11,100MW over the next 10 years; growth that Solar Citizens says will create 4,050 ongoing installation jobs. 

[ENDS] 

Full report available here. 
Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

Fair Price for Solar Needed to Keep Cheap Renewable Energy in the Grid

29 September 2021: Fair Price for Solar Needed to Keep Cheap Renewable Energy in the Grid

Community advocacy group Solar Citizens is calling for all states to introduce government mandated feed-in tariffs to ensure households receive a fair price for the energy they share. 

A report by ABC News today showed solar households are sensitive to reductions in feed-in tariffs and energy policy announcements. 

Currently, Victoria is the only state with a government mandated minimum solar feed-in tariff. 

“As we see feed-in tariffs continue to drop all over the country, more and more households are turning to batteries as they are seeing less value in exporting their energy, said Ellen Roberts, National Director of Solar Citizens.

“We want to encourage battery uptake so households can get the most out of their solar, but not by devaluing the investment they have made in their solar systems.

“Cheap solar in the grid helps lower power bills for all energy users and reduce emissions – it’s a win-win. We need to make sure that contribution is being compensated fairly. 

“Right now, consumers are having to shop around to find a fair price, and it could change at any time. And on top of lowering feed-in tariffs, solar homes and businesses are now facing new charges to even export their power – it’s changing the economics of rooftop solar.”

In August, the Australian Energy Market Commission ruled that distribution networks can now charge fees to solar homes and businesses to export their electricity.  

“Government mandated feed-in tariffs are needed to protect the investments solar households have made, and ensure we continue to encourage the uptake of rooftop solar. 

“We don’t want to see the uptake slow down because consumers feel there is too much uncertainty around investing in solar. 

“Unfair feed-in tariffs could backfire if we see more people turn away from exporting, or getting solar in the first place - leading to less cheap solar in the grid and potentially higher power prices for everyone.”

[ENDS]

Media contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694

NSW’s Climate Ambition Leaves Qld in the Dust

29 September 2021: NSW’s Climate Ambition Leaves Qld in the Dust

NSW has this morning announced a more ambitious 50% emissions reduction target for 2030, leaving Queensland well behind most of Australia’s states and territories.

Commitments to reduce climate pollution 

 

2030 target

2050 target

NSW

50% (up from 35%)

Net zero

Federal

26-28%

Uncommitted

Vic

45-50%

Net zero

Qld

30%

Net zero

WA

26-28%

Net zero

SA

50%

Net zero

Tas

Already net zero emissions

-

NT

No target

Net zero

ACT

65%

Net zero by 2045

(Credit: NSW Conservation Council)

“Queensland is set to host the world’s first climate positive Olympics in 2032, and yet we’re losing the race to slashing emissions,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens. 

“We don’t want to embarrass ourselves on the world stage when the spotlight falls on Queensland. This is the time to show leadership.

“Our research shows that climate action is good for Queensland jobs. An extra 22,000 jobs would be created across Queensland’s regions by 2030 if we turbocharged the rollout of renewable energy.

“Burning fossil fuels like coal is the biggest source of climate pollution but the State government has no plans to retire their six state-owned coal stations early, which means even achieving our existing emission reduction targets will be an uphill battle.

“The energy sector is by far the biggest polluter in Queensland, accounting for about 40% of emissions. We simply can’t be serious about climate action without planning for early coal retirements.”

[ENDS]

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

Stronger Climate Action will Power Up Queensland Jobs

27 September 2021: Stronger Climate Action will Power Up Queensland Jobs

As pressure builds for the Australian Government to adopt a net zero by 2050 climate target, analysis from community group Solar Citizens has shown that fast-tracking the energy transition could create an extra 22,000 construction and installation job years in Queensland by 2030 compared with business as usual.

“Queensland will miss out on job opportunities if we don’t embrace climate action. If we drag our feet we’ll miss the chance to establish thriving new export industries in renewable hydrogen, ‘green’ steel and aluminium,” said Solar Citizens’ Energy Strategist Stephanie Gray.

“Turbocharging Queensland’s rollout of renewable energy could see a total of 44,000 clean energy job years created in the installation of solar, wind and distributed storage by 2030 as well as an additional 2,000 jobs in operations and maintenance.” 

The Queensland job figures, released earlier this year and based on future scenario modelling from the Australian Energy Market Operator, take into account additional jobs that could be created in small and large-scale solar, wind and household batteries if Australia embraces stronger emission reduction targets.

Solar Citizens has also analysed job opportunities in Townsville, finding that low carbon manufacturing and industry projects would provide a $154 billion economic boost over their lifetime and over 3,950 ongoing jobs if they were powered by renewable energy projects.

Over the weekend Townsville business and community leaders announced a new consortium to position the city as a hydrogen and renewable energy manufacturing hub.

“The move to cleaner energy is a no-brainer here in the Sunshine State. Hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders are already seeing solar savings from their rooftop, and large-scale solar and wind projects are pushing ageing coal stations out of the market because they provide cheaper electricity.

“Queensland is one of the best places to develop new renewable powered manufacturing and industry precincts. If our governments act fast, we’ll be well-placed to begin powering the world with Queensland-made renewable hydrogen.

“For a long time hardworking regional Queenslanders have been keeping our electricity system running and the lights on. This energy expertise will be critical as we move to the next generation of energy and begin to export our solar and wind resources to the world.”

[ENDS]

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

Hydrogen Approval Demonstrates Why Townsville Shouldn’t Miss Out on Federal Funding

September 22: Hydrogen Approval Demonstrates Why Townsville Shouldn’t Miss Out on Federal Funding.

The approval of Edify Energy’s solar and hydrogen project at the Lansdown Eco-industrial site was today celebrated by community group Solar Citizens, who say Townsville can have a bright economic future in new industries underpinned by abundant, cheap renewable energy. 

Edify plans to develop a 1GW renewable hydrogen facility, alongside a solar and battery power plant.

“The Federal government has just allocated $150 million in additional funding to establish hydrogen hubs across the country. This is a great initiative but so far Townsville isn’t on their priority list,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens.

“When you’ve got Edify, Sun Metals and Origin Energy all planning to invest in renewable hydrogen projects, it would be a real shame if Townsville missed out on this federal funding. 

“Townsville has all the key ingredients to be a clean energy industrial powerhouse: some of Australia’s best solar resources, a skilled local workforce and world-class port facilities.

“Our report published earlier this year found that turning Townsville into a renewable industry powerhouse would create over 3,950 ongoing jobs and a $154 billion economic boost for the region. 

“Townsville has incredible potential but all levels of government need to back the region and build the enabling infrastructure to see these opportunities realised.”

[ENDS]

Media contact: Stephanie 0425543006