Queensland 2023 policy asks
Right now Queenslanders are facing a cost of living crisis while dealing with the worsening impacts of climate change. Fast-tracking the rollout of renewable energy, and ensuring clean and affordable energy is accessible to everyone, is a key solution to manage both pressing challenges.
Solar citizens across Queensland are calling for the Queensland Government to invest in the below initiatives in addition to the commitments made in the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan.
1. Bring online more publicly-owned renewable energy projects sooner to bring down power bills and improve reliability for Queenslanders. If a further 2,000 MW of publicly-owned solar and wind projects and 500 MW of utility-scale battery storage came online before 2025, it would bring down wholesale power prices and create up to 3,475 construction jobs.
Wholesale electricity prices are spiralling, largely due to high global fossil fuel prices and breakdowns at ageing coal power stations, and Queensland households and businesses are struggling to manage this extra cost burden. Bringing online more renewable energy and storage, which have low operational costs, is vital to bring down inflated wholesale electricity prices.
Our latest report, launched alongside the Queensland Conservation Council, found that large-scale solar, wind and storage projects across the Sunshine State brought wholesale power costs down by $25/MWh in 2022, equivalent to nearly $100 per household. Further renewable energy investment would have brought down costs by more than $500 per household.
Queensland is in the fortunate position of still owning the majority of electricity generation assets, and this public-ownership has been pivotal to providing bill support for Queenslanders. The Queensland Government should build on this advantage and urgently address the likelihood of long-term high electricity prices by bringing online more publicly-owned renewable energy and storage as soon as possible.
At the moment there are 3,800 MW of large-scale solar and wind projects likely to come online in Queensland by 2025. Allocating the Queensland Government’s $4.5 billion Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Jobs Fund as soon as possible could help deliver between 1,000 - 2,000 MW of new renewable generation.
2. Work with the Australian Government to announce Townsville as one of Australia’s first Renewable Energy Industrial Precincts and commit to deliver a roadmap study for the region.
A Renewable Energy Industrial Precinct (REIP) is a hub for advanced manufacturing and processing that’s powered entirely by renewable energy backed by storage and renewable hydrogen.
Key benefits of establishing REIPs include:
- Attracting new local investment and industries to secure long-term good jobs and economic prosperity;
- Providing cheaper shared infrastructure and renewable energy access to participating industry;
- Encouraging more onshore manufacturing and minerals processing to reduce global supply chain issues.
Due to leadership by the Townsville City Council, industry and key local stakeholders, Townsville is well-positioned to be one of Australia’s first Renewable Energy Industrial Precincts and demonstrate to the rest of the country how the transition to a clean economy can power good, long-term employment and economic prosperity. Read more about how to turn Townsville into a REIP here.
3. Assist the most vulnerable social housing tenants slash their power bills by rolling out a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) on an initial 10,000 dwellings.
A Virtual Power Plant is a network of smart batteries that can be coordinated to act together as a larger power plant and provide electricity to the grid when it’s needed.
In South Australia the State Government is in the process of working with Tesla to roll out Australia’s largest Virtual Power Plant, including on an initial 4,100 social housing dwellings. In the SA model, solar, storage or both are being installed in social homes at no upfront cost to the tenants and in exchange the tenants are offered the cheapest electricity in the market.
The positives of VPPs include that they improve energy system reliability by providing grid services when needed, and they allow more households to access cheaper electricity even if their roof is not suitable for solar. In the South Australian example, tenants are estimated to save $423 per year by being part of the VPP.
4. Expand Queensland’s Solar for Renters trial and provide support for at least an additional 10,000 private rental properties to install solar.
In 2019, the Queensland Government started running a trial program to increase the uptake of rooftop solar on rental properties. Rebates of up to $3,500 were offered to landlords to take part in the trial and install a solar system on their rental properties in the Gladstone, Bundaberg and Townsville Local Government Areas.
Overall, 670 properties had solar installed during the trial, and the results demonstrate that tenants were on average $600 a year better off after the solar was installed. A program such as this should be implemented for the whole of the State and should include a well-funded communication and engagement strategy to let landlords know about the opportunity.
5. Provide targeted financial support, including interest-free loans, for the rollout of household clean technology, such as small-scale solar and storage, energy efficiency upgrades and electric appliances to replace gas.
Providing support for Queenslanders to electrify their households and power them with rooftop solar and battery storage is a key solution for helping consumers manage high electricity and gas prices. In addition to solar, clean technology such as household battery storage, solar hot water or hot water heat pumps, electric heating systems, electric stove tops, and electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, can be a smart hip-pocket investment for consumers.
A recent report from the Climate Council found that households that switch from gas to fully electric in Brisbane can save up to $1,424 on their annual bills. Consumers report that the biggest barrier to accessing electric appliances is the upfront cost of making the switch, which the State Government can address by implementing no-interest loans.
A successful example of this working is the Sustainable Household Scheme implemented by the ACT Government; in this well-subscribed scheme no-interest loans of up to $15,000 are available for clean technology. In just over a year, the scheme has delivered more than $98 million worth of loans and 5% of all eligible households have participated.
6. Work with the Federal Government and other Australian states and territories to deliver an ambitious National Framework for Minimum Energy Efficiency Rental Requirements, and ensure mandatory minimum energy efficiency rental standards are implemented as soon as possible in Queensland. Mandatory disclosure of rental energy efficiency ratings should also be implemented to ensure compliance.
Improving energy efficiency in existing rental properties has positive hip-pocket and health benefits for tenants, and is a key action for bringing down Australia’s residential emissions. More than 30% of Australians live in rental properties, and these people have limited access and control for ensuring their homes are comfortable and efficient.
Landlords currently have very little financial incentive for upgrading their rental properties, so it’s up to governments across the country to introduce regulation to ensure that the efficiency standard of rental properties improves. This is especially important in the context that globally high fossil fuel prices are resulting in significantly higher electricity bills – a trend that is set to continue over the next few years.
Solar Citizens supports the Healthy Homes for Renters Community Sector Blueprint, which states:
As an overarching objective, minimum energy efficiency standards for rentals should improve the thermal comfort and minimise the energy consumption of rental homes to reduce energy bills and support the health and wellbeing of people who rent, as well as contribute to a zero-emissions energy sector in line with limiting warming to 1.5°C.
This will require a mix of measures including:
- Maximising the thermal efficiency of a building as far as reasonably possible first;
- Efficient electric appliances like hot water, heating and cooling, fridges, washers, and dryers; and
- Renewable energy production and storage.
7. Ensure First Nations communities benefit from the energy transition, including by ensuring Traditional Owners are actively involved and benefit from large-scale renewable energy projects on their land.
Solar Citizens acknowledges that transitioning the energy system poses both potential risks and benefits to First Nations people and their ongoing connection to Country. We support the First Nation Clean Energy Network’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Best Practice Principles for Clean Energy Projects. The ten principles for clean energy developers and governments are:
- Engage respectfully
- Prioritise clear, accessible and accurate information
- Ensure cultural heritage is preserved and protected
- Protect country and environment
- Be a good neighbour
- Ensure economic benefits are shared
- Provide social benefits for community
- Embed land stewardship
- Ensure cultural competency
- Implement, monitor and report back
These principles are guidelines and in practice all communities are different and the implementation of these principles needs to reflect the needs of the community.
In addition to adhering to the above principles, the energy transformation is a key opportunity to provide long-term benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by increasing First Nations ownership of electricity assets.
So far in Australia we haven’t seen much progress in this space, but in Canada it is now regular practice that clean energy projects are about 25% owned by First Nations communities. This has been achieved by some of the following government initiatives:
- In some cases provincial governments have legislated Indigenous involvement in new renewable projects.
- Government funds that enable renewable energy projects specify how profits from these projects must be shared with First Nations people.
- Funds are available to assist Indigenous businesses getting involved in renewable projects.
Solar Citizens encourages the State Government to support the above initiatives.
8. Encourage the Federal Government to support more battery storage in Queensland to improve grid reliability and support the objectives of the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan.
As solar uptake continues to grow, it’s essential that more distributed storage is added to the network to minimise stress on the distribution network and ensure the grid can support significant continued solar growth.
The Australian Government has committed to rolling out 400 community batteries with a $224 million fund. The Queensland Government should advocate that this scheme is initiated quickly and that Queensland gets its fair share of community batteries – especially considering Queensland is a world-leading jurisdiction for the uptake of rooftop solar.
The State Government should also advocate for the expansion of the national Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) to provide additional financial incentive for the installation of battery storage alongside solar. The existing SRES regulation could simply be altered to provide more small-scale technology certificates for installs with storage.
9. Rule out the introduction of solar export charges in the next regulatory revenue determination period for Queensland’s distributed network service providers.
Last year the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) implemented a change to the electricity market rules to allow distributed network service providers (DNSPs) to charge solar owners to export electricity to the grid. Solar Citizens disagreed with the implementation of this, especially given that solar homes and businesses provide a net benefit to all consumers by providing cheap electricity to the grid and reducing the wholesale price of electricity for everyone.
A recent report from Solar Citizens and the Queensland Conservation Council found that Queensland’s 870,000 solar homes and businesses effectively provided up to $60 million worth of free electricity to the grid in May, and the State’s wholesale power prices would have been 9% higher without this cheap electricity.
Implementing a charge to solar owners, many of whom accessed solar with encouragement from state and federal governments, is unfair to those who made the investment in solar in good faith. It will also discourage the further growth of the small-scale solar industry – the success of which is vital to underpin the ambition of the Queensland’s Energy and Jobs Plan.
10. Create a restorative renewable energy industry that increases biodiversity in Queensland, and empowers regional communities.
A rapid roll out of renewable energy is essential to combat climate change and develop new industries. Renewable energy can be developed in ways that increase biodiversity and truly engage and benefit regional communities, if it is properly planned.
However, we do not currently have adequate government planning. Our current offset policy allows for overall loss of biodiversity. State Code 23 does not legislate community engagement for wind farms. And in addition, there is not enough detail provided on where or how Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) will be developed.
Right now interest in renewable energy is accelerating. This is resulting in an uncoordinated race between developers for sites and transmission capacity at the expense of biodiversity and true engagement and benefits sharing with communities and First Nations people.
The Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan committed to a review of the Energy Development Planning Framework, including State Code 23. This review should be prioritised and be public, with meaningful opportunities for community consultation and participation. To maintain social licence and improve environmental outcomes, the Queensland Government should ensure that we are developing an industry where offsets increase biodiversity overall. The Government should also conduct and make public integrated land use mapping, which can coordinate development to ensure the transition protects essential biodiversity.