Last week the Palaszczuk Government announced the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan which included ambitious renewable targets of 70% by 2032 and 80% by 2035 citing the government’s strong commitment to driving the transition to a lower emissions future in what is being touted the clean energy industrial revolution.
The Plan includes a proposed supergrid infrastructure build, which is a commitment to strong public ownership of Queensland’s energy system, and will require approximately 100,000 jobs to deliver over the coming decade – the same 10 year period in which we are also planning a significant infrastructure build for the Olympics.
Not surprisingly, the plan has been met with mixed emotions and a range of views. On one hand, there is excitement about the magnitude of the proposed transformation and the opportunities that may come from Queensland positioning itself as a giant in the clean energy space. The long-term prospect of potentially having more choice in energy supply and being less subjective to the global energy market is an attractive proposition for all. There is also support for consideration of what future local manufacturing opportunities might be able to be developed as part of the plan.
The plan’s $4 million allocation to support the modernisation of bioenergy generation could enable innovation across industries such as sugar where millers alone have the capacity to almost quadruple their current generation from bagasse.
On the other hand, there is genuine concern about how this plan will actually be delivered on the ground. At a time when workforce shortages are being felt by all industries across the state, what will this mean to agriculture’s ability to find workers? How will competing land use issues be managed and in particular, priority agricultural land? The regions will play a critical role in the rollout of this plan, but how will existing industries and communities be protected during the transition period and into the long-term future? What will happen to the cost and availability of energy in the coming years during the rollout? These are all questions front of mind for many.
Energy affordability and reliability are critical to the future of food production and sustainable growth in agriculture and regional communities across the state. Detailed planning, and extensive ongoing industry and community consultation are needed if stability for regional communities, energy supply, and the cost of electricity are to be achieved and landholders not adversely affected by the regional energy zones.
Many farmers are already quite advanced in their own journey of reducing energy costs and emissions on farm via efficiency efforts, technology and renewable energy infrastructure. Let’s not forget the great achievements we can make by supporting on farm efficiencies and the less newsworthy but very effective initiatives like ramping up the smart meter roll out.
As the volatility in global energy markets and power prices continues, there is a sense of nervousness across the agricultural sector. The journey to lower emissions energy must be meticulously planned and genuinely collaborative if we are to achieve the targets outlined in the plan. Energy reliability and affordability must be maintained throughout the transformation so that production and the viability of Queensland farmers is supported and further increases in the cost of food production are avoided.