Investment in publicly owned renewables has emerged as a key strategy in the State Labor Government’s bid for re-election in October.

Member for South Brisbane, Jackie Trad, a strong advocate for boosting public funding for renewables, put the issue firmly at the centre of her campaign recently when she circulated throughout the electorate, a pamphlet detailing of the Government’s commitment to renewables.

Ms Trad told the Westender that renewables and manufacturing to create new jobs, and cheaper and cleaner energy, are a priority for the Government’s COVID recovery efforts.

In August, the Palaszczuk Government announced $145 million to fund the establishment of three Renewable Energy Zones in south-west, central and northern Queensland.

This week, the Government built on that commitment by announcing it will invest $500 million into publicly owned renewable projects which they says will generate Queensland jobs as part of its COVID-19 recovery plan.

Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the Renewable Energy Fund would continue the pace of Queensland’s renewable program. He said that since 2015, 41 large-scale renewable energy projects have commenced operations, or are under construction, or have been financially committed. Dr Lynham said this represents about 6500 jobs in the renewables industry.

 “The fund will complement our $145 million commitment to establish three renewable energy zones to foster jobs and growth in regional Queensland,” Dr Lynham said.

The investment is the result of efforts by unions and environmental groups lobbying and working with Labor over some years.

“Unions have routinely raised the potential of increased manufacturing and advanced manufacturing as a stable source of well-paid, secure jobs that come with producing products for local, domestic and global consumption,” Ms Trad said.

Ms Trad also acknowledged the role of LEAN, Labor’s internal environment group, of which she is a patron and member.

“LEAN was very active internally in the ambition to establish CleanCo., along with the Electrical Trades Union, and they should be very proud of their efforts.”

“The Palaszczuk Labor Government has committed to massively increasing the generation of renewable energy into our grid, and we have made significant gains.  From only 7% renewable energy generation in 2015 when we formed Government, to 20% this year and the establishment of CleanCo., our publicly-owned renewable energy generation company, who are already pumping in renewable energy into the grid and are moving to construction of a very large wind farm near Warwick.”

Helen Abrahams, Coordinator of LEAN QLD said the group is delighted with this week’s the announcement.

“It is the result of years of campaigning by the ETU, Labor LEAN [1] members, and key environment groups. I wish to acknowledge the role of Jackie Trad when Deputy Premier for the work she did to prepare the way for this announcement. Without her work we would not have had this announcement today,” Ms Abrahams said.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has welcomed the Government’s announcement but said there was still more to do to secure jobs and assets.

The ETU agrees with Treasurer Cameron Dick that the investment announced this week will put money on the table so that state-owned energy corporations can increase public ownership of commercial renewable projects. However, State Secretary Peter Ong said the union would have preferred the money to go directly to the state-owned CleanCo.

“While we have argued that any new funding should go directly into CleanCo which would have provided investment certainty for the next three years, this is a good first step. But they also need to show the workforce and communities of our current generators that they are investing in the future of their workforce, and the surrounding communities by investing in renewable projects for them to transition into.” Mr Ong said.

The ETU says it wants to see profits from the two state-owned electricity generators, CS and Stanwell, to be reinvested rather than being returned to treasury’s consolidated funds.

“In these ever-changing times, we will continue to lobby the Government to reinvest profits made by CS and Stanwell back into those companies with strict conditions the funds are used to construct renewable energy generation assets. This would have two significant positive impacts, a surge in public owned renewable generation assets and a clearer path to a just transition for workers currently employed in the coal-fired generation sector.”

Mr Ong said the recent announcements made by the State Government demonstrate that it is serious about creating and investing in renewables and he urged the Government to continue to invest in a publicly owned and “fit for purpose” energy future.

The Queensland Conservation Council (QCC) also welcomed the news.

“This commitment by the Government is a huge boost for Queensland in the hard economic times we face. This investment will create jobs in construction, manufacturing, operation and maintenance of large-scale renewables, which deliver cheaper, cleaner power and the jobs we need right now.”

The QCC also wants more, and is asking the Premier to follow this latest announcement with, “… a just and fair plan to close Queensland’s failing coal power stations and transition to a clean, green, energy future for the Sunshine State.”

On 27 August, the Greens put out its call for publicly owned renewables and for the development of a green steel manufacturing base in Queensland. The Greens are also proposing the establishment of a Queensland Manufacturing Authority with seed funding of $1 billion to provide grants and cheap loans to help establish new manufacturing businesses. 

The Party’s green steel policy is largely based on the work of policy think-tank, the Grattan Institute, and at the time of their announcement the Greens had not yet engaged with the ETU or the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) in Queensland.

[1] LEAN – Labor Environment Action Network

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