Key role for Queensland’s public energy corporations as part of AU$500m renewable fund

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Queensland government-owned CS Energy has already secured a deal to buy 100% of the output of the Columboola Solar Farm in Queensland. Image: Image: CS Energy/Twitter.

Queensland’s three state-owned energy generators will be able to increase their ownership of commercial renewable projects thanks to a new AU$500 million (US$364.45 million) green energy fund announced yesterday.

Forming part of the Australian state’s AU$1 billion COVID-19 recovery package, the renewables investment will enable CS Energy, Stanwell Corporation and CleanCo Queensland to explore commercial partnerships, look at power purchase agreements or build, own and operate green energy facilities, a spokesperson told PV Tech.

While there are no specific projects in mind, Queensland energy minister Anthony Lynham said the funding will enable more renewable projects to get through the investment decision phase to get construction underway “as soon as possible”.

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

Renewables currently represent around 20% of the Sunshine State's energy mix, and the government has set a target to increase that share to 50% by 2030. Since 2015, 41 large-scale renewable energy projects have commenced operations, started construction or been financially committed.

While Queensland was the leading Australian state for large-scale solar development in 2018, renewable energy association Clean Energy Council notes that only three large-scale projects were financially committed in the 18 months between January 2019 and June 2020, down from 19 in 2017.

“This new fund will be a big shot in the arm for clean energy investment in Queensland, which has otherwise slowed since the start of 2019,” said Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton.

He added: “We welcome the very clear recognition by the Queensland government that the renewable energy sector can play a big role in jumpstarting economic activity and jobs across the state following the impacts of COVID-19 while accelerating Queensland's transition to becoming a clean energy powerhouse.”

Additional renewable energy activity by Queensland’s state-owned energy companies have come to light in recent months, with CleanCo agreeing to buy power from Neoen’s Western Downs Green Power Hub, a project that is intended to be Australia’s largest operational solar farm once complete. CS Energy, meanwhile, will purchase 100% of the output from the 162MW Columboola Solar Farm and sell it on to commercial and industrial retail customers.

Queensland is the latest Australian state to include renewables as part of efforts to drive the economic recovery from the effects of coronavirus. Western Australia has lined up a AU$66.3 investment million on green energy technologies, including the installation of nine battery energy storage systems, while Victoria has launched a market sounding process to explore the addition of at least 600MW of renewables.

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