On the 29th of September the Queensland Government released the QLD Energy and Jobs Plan which outlines the plan for energy development in Queensland up to 2032. The plan has set new ambition from the QLD Government, increasing the renewable energy target to 80% by 2035. The plan also outlines a wide range of energy initiatives which will progress the transition to renewable energy and ensure that coal is out of Queensland’s energy mix by 2037. As a part of that process, all publicly owned coal-fired power stations will be converted to clean energy hubs by 2035.
We are so excited to see the government committing to close coal fired power stations, we know that a safe climate future relies on a transition away from fossil fuels. Natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics World Heritage Area rely on reducing global temperature rise and energy emissions are key to this. But while these natural areas rely on the transition we know that they also rely on the transition happening well, so that we do not lose essential biodiversity along the way. Biodiversity is also essential for emissions reduction and the survival of the natural places we love. In Far North Queensland we have seen some big impacts to nature from the Kaban wind farm, which has citizens really concerned about future development like the Chalumbin wind farms.
One of the key issues with these large scale wind farms is that State Planning Code 23 allows them to be assessed without community consultation, and avoidance of assessment under the Nature Conservation Act. CAFNEC has been pushing for a review of these laws and we are very happy to see that the energy plan also announced a review of the planning framework for renewable energy development, which is expected to include State Code 23 for wind farms. There is not currently any detail from the plan about how this review will be conducted and CAFNEC will be pushing for a public review of Planning Policy, to ensure that we get the best outcome for people and the environment. In the end, that is who the transition should be serving.
Additionally, the Plan has set out 7 Key Principles including Principle 5. Preserve Queensland’s Environment: “Ensure the development of clean energy maximises opportunities for positive co-existence, preserves the local environment and promotes greater biodiversity.”. CAFNEC has been pushing hard for the transition plan to have the environment as a core pillar of planning for Queensland Renewable Energy Zones. We are very happy to see that the Energy Plan has Principle 5, and now we will be looking to ensure that the QREZ Roadmap described in the plan plants the environment as a core pillar, not simply a principle.
Far North Queensland has seen a number of investments announced in the Plan. According to the plan, our region will see an estimated $6.6 billion investment in electricity infrastructure by 2040. This includes investment into upgrades between Cairns and Townsville, delivering 500 MW capacity in the Far North Queensland Renewable Energy Zone (REZ). We will be closely examining the planned upgrades to transmission between Cairns and Townsville. We need to ensure that these transmission upgrades consider the World Heritage and other protected areas surrounding the transmission line. It’s important that the upgrades don’t put unacceptable pressure on this essential biodiversity that underpins our nature-based economy.”
The plan also includes a priority action for clean energy for remote and First Nations communities, stating that it “will be co-designed by remote First Nations communities and the Queensland and Australian governments”. CAFNEC is encouraged to see this action focused in the plan. We hope that the co-design is given the time that is need for true collaboration, we know that getting out to community and having on Country consultation and shared decision making power is what is core to true co-design. Our region has some really incredible first nations businesses and community leaders who are well set to lead transition work for remote, rural and urban First Nations communities.