A new report has highlighted that Queensland has the natural resources to become a world leader in renewable energy, as well as in industries such as clean manufacturing, minerals processing and renewable hydrogen – bringing with it tens of thousands of jobs.
The report, Leaders and Legends: Thousands of Clean Jobs for Queenslanders, by the Climate Council outlines that accelerating the development of Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) will give Queensland a global competitive advantage in energy-intensive industries, create jobs for Queenslanders, and new export opportunities.
CEO of the Climate Council, Amanda McKenzie, said there are so many reasons to be optimistic about Queensland’s economic future as it rebuilds from COVID-19.
“The growth of renewable energy generation in the state is bringing down power prices, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which will help protect Queensland’s natural tourism assets, like the Great Barrier Reef,” said Ms McKenzie.
“Recent commitments from State and Federal governments to progress the Copperstring 2.0 project demonstrate that the time is right for Queensland to just get on with it and unlock new opportunities in both renewables and clean manufacturing.”
“The Queensland Government can seize this moment to create jobs that get people back to work now, and turn Queensland into a clean industry superpower. Generations of Queenslanders could work in these clean industries,” she said.
“Regional cities like Townsville, Gladstone and Mackay have the skilled workforce, close proximity to excellent renewable resources, and established industrial infrastructure that makes them ideal to develop clean industries.”
Some key findings from the report include:
- Queensland can accelerate the development of renewable energy zones (REZs) across the state. The proposed REZs in the Darling Downs and Far North Queensland could create up to 2,000 jobs in each region by 2025.
- In the immediate term, the Climate Council’s Clean Jobs Plan has found 15,000 – 20,000 jobs could be created in Queensland across 12 policy areas.
- Townsville could become a hub for lithium-ion battery manufacturing and metals processing, and central Queensland could become a clean steel powerhouse, creating 15,000 local jobs by 2050.
- CopperString 2.0 – a proposed transmission project connecting North West Queensland to the National Electricity Market (NEM) – will unlock exceptional wind and solar resources and new opportunities in mining and minerals processing. It is expected to reduce electricity prices across the region by 40 per cent.
- Construction of CopperString 2.0 is expected to create 750 direct jobs over three years, while downstream industrial opportunities unlocked by the project are expected to create an additional 3,560 full-time jobs.
- Electricity prices in South East Queensland are projected to fall 20 per cent from 2019 to 2022, due in part to the recent boom in renewable energy projects.
Climate Council’s Head of Research, Dr Martin Rice, said North West Queensland could become a superpower in new economy mining, providing minerals required for solar panels, wind turbines and batteries.
“The value of the ‘new economy minerals’ deposits in the region exceeds $500 billion,” said Dr Rice.
“Expanding domestic mining and processing of critical minerals also increases Australia’s self-reliance by protecting our supply chains from potential disruption.”
Dr Rice commented that increasing renewable energy generation brings down power prices, creating a global competitive advantage for Queensland in energy-intensive industries.
“Climate change is taking a devastating toll on Queensland. This year saw another mass bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef – the third in five years, and bushfires scorched World Heritage rainforests previously considered too wet to burn. Queenslanders also suffered from flooding and drought,” he said.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for governments to invest in programs that will deliver secure, skilled and long-term jobs now and into the future for Queenslanders. It’s a win-win-win, for the economy, for jobs and for our climate.”
A regional breakdown can be found below:
Far North Queensland
- Has some of Australia’s best wind resources for providing consistent and reliable renewable energy. Peak times for wind in the region occur at different times to other parts of the nation, extending the time renewable energy is available to the national grid.
- Proposed Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) stretching from Cooktown to Tully able to provide 950 megawatts (MW) of clean energy within a decade and create up to an additional 2000 jobs in the renewables industry.
- Transmission line upgrades will eventually be needed both in Far North Queensland and Central Queensland to take full advantage of renewable potential.
- CopperString 2.0 (Townsville to Mt Isa) is expected to create 750 direct jobs in construction and open up some of the richest solar and wind generating country in Australia.
- Work is underway to secure a lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant at Townsville, which could use materials mined and processed in Queensland.
- Existing industrial base and the presence of a skilled workforce, combined with access to cheap, clean energy could allow Townsville to tap into a growing export market for renewable hydrogen.
- Townsville is already leading the way in using renewable energy in industry. Sun Metals zinc refinery built a 116MW solar farm to supply one-third of its energy.
North West Queensland
- CopperString 2.0, and the increased development of renewables it would allow, has the potential to cut energy prices in North West Queensland by 40 per cent.
- Cheaper electricity from the CopperString project is expected to unlock 3,560 new jobs, particularly in the north west by reducing prices in the $680 billion North West Minerals Province and allowing the development of new manufacturing industries.
- The Isaac REZ stretching from Abbott Point to Marlborough is already home to renewable energy projects and has the potential to add another 1350MW of renewable generation within a decade.
- The REZ has battery and pumped hydro storage potential of 800MW.
- Existing industrial base and the presence of a skilled workforce, combined with access to cheap, clean energy could allow Mackay to expand manufacturing and other clean industries.
Central Queensland (Fitzroy REZ)
- Potential to generate 900MW of wind and solar energy within a decade, along with 400MW of energy storage.
- Existing transmission lines can support up to 2500MW of new renewable energy across the Fitzroy and Isaac REZs, but upgrading transmission would allow the region to take better advantage of its potential.
- Existing industrial base and the presence of a skilled workforce, combined with access to cheap, clean energy would allow Gladstone to tap into a growing export market for renewable hydrogen and clean steel. Clean steel alone could create 15,000 long term, well-paid jobs in central Queensland by 2050.
- Cheap, renewable energy can help guarantee the future of existing industries, such as the aluminium smelter at Boyne Island, while reduced overheads from electricity costs can allow more existing industries to expand.
- Darling Downs REZ has the potential to generate 2800MW of renewable solar and wind energy.
- The REZ could create up to 2000 jobs in construction and maintenance alone.
- Southern Queensland is perfectly placed to provide renewable energy to the Brisbane market and export energy to NSW.