Deputy Premier: Feds owe Queenslanders $1b for renewables
LATE last week, heatwave conditions and wild weather saw Victoria and New South Wales come perilously close to running out of power.
The fact they didn't was due in part to the strength and resilience of Queensland's publicly-owned grid and generators which, through the National Electricity Market, pumped power over the border, keeping the lights (and air conditioners) on down south.
That's a role Queensland must continue to play as renewables contribute a larger share to our energy mix.
Even Scott Morrison knows the importance of a strong National Electricity Market.
It's why he gave New South Wales $105 million last year to improve the interconnector that is allowing southerners to buy even more electricity from Queensland.
Then last week, he gave New South Wales an additional $1 billion - the vast majority of which will never have to be paid back - to develop further gas and renewables.
Except the Liberal New South Wales Environment Minister says they won't use the money for gas.
So in effect, the LNP in Canberra has given the LNP in Sydney $1 billion to develop more renewables in New South Wales.
The Palaszczuk Government's clear policy focus on renewable energy means there are already many renewable energy projects in Queensland that can supply not just Queensland households and businesses, but also New South Wales and the rest of the National Electricity Market.
Queensland already has an abundance of renewable projects underway around that interconnector that supplies New South Wales, like the 110MW Darling Downs Solar Farm, the 453MW Coopers Gap Wind Farm, and the recently-announced 100MW battery to be built near Wandoan.
But we need to develop more of these projects right across the state - not just to supply cheaper, renewable electricity to Queensland homes, but to help create and support more jobs in more industries.
Industries like advanced manufacturing, to build the renewable generation and battery storage technologies of the future. Industries like construction, to create and equip buildings with cost-saving renewable energy technologies.
And industries like mining, to recover the rare earth minerals in the North West Minerals Province near Mount Isa that are so vital to sustaining our expansion of renewable energy.
While New South Wales enjoys the favour of the federal government in renewables investment, Queensland has so far gone it alone.
So today, I am calling on the Prime Minister to take $1 billion from Senator Matt Canavan's underperforming Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund and provide it to Queensland as a renewable energy grant on the same terms as that given to New South Wales.
The Morrison Government gives New South Wales 80 per cent of the funding for the Pacific Highway as it stretches along the New South Wales Coast.
As soon as that highway touches the Queensland border, the Morrison Government cuts its share of funding to just 50 per cent.
The Federal LNP gives billions of dollars to new public transport projects in Sydney - but not Brisbane.
The reason Mr Morrison wants New South Wales to open up more gas for domestic use is that for years, Queensland has been the only state to supply that demand, which supports large energy customers as well as industries that rely on gas as a feedstock.
For years, we have been the backbone of Australia's energy market.
We're leading the way when it comes to supporting jobs by supplying gas to industry, and we have the clear policy settings to continue our role as a renewable energy leader.
While southern states grapple with their lack of control over the closure of generators which they sold to the private sector, Queenslanders still own our generators, ensuring reliability and lower prices.
We already have the cheapest power prices of any mainland state, and they continue to get cheaper.
Our Affordable Energy Plan delivered Queensland households with a $50 per year rebate on their electricity bills - a direct benefit of keeping our electricity generators in public hands.
Our new publicly owned renewable generator CleanCo buys solar power during the day when supply is plentiful for its pumped hydro power station, then injects it back into the grid at times of peak demand.
Industry keeps crying out for that kind of clear energy policy direction from Canberra.
Yesterday, News Ltd reported that consultancy RepuTex says without a coherent policy to steer investment in new renewable generation and storage from the Federal Government, wholesale power prices could rise again later this decade.
It's precisely to avoid this risk that Scott Morrison should offer Queensland the same deal he has given to New South Wales.
Jackie Trad is Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships