Former US vice president Al Gore has been in Brisbane for the Climate Reality Project’s Leadership Corps program. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Former US vice president Al Gore has been in Brisbane for the Climate Reality Project’s Leadership Corps program. Picture: Mark Cranitch

Inconvenient truth for Queensland climate critics

CLIMATE change guru Al Gore must've thought he was in a pretty weird place this week when he arrived "Down Under".

The former US presidential candidate is staging his Climate Reality Project's Leadership Corps program in Queensland at the behest of the Palaszczuk Government.

Yet this is the same state being pilloried by its southern neighbours for being "bogans" and backwards on the issue of climate change because it approved a thermal coal mine.

The irony wouldn't be lost on Gore that these accusations are coming from states like New South Wales which routinely takes Queensland's coal-fired power while failing to set a renewable energy target of its own.

The same criticisms are also coming from the state that likes to boast about how progressive it is, Victoria, while it continues to produce power from the dirtiest energy source of all, brown coal.

And neither of these states are willing to exploit their gas reserves, despite this fuel being used around the world as a bridging source to aid the transition to clean energy.

If Gore thought climate politics was vexed in the United States, he might need to reassess after coming to Queensland.

Yet despite all the condemnation and grandstanding coming from the denizens of elsewhere in Australia, the Sunshine State has arguably the best platform for energy transition in Australia.

The Palaszczuk Government's plan for Queensland to use 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 has spawned billions of dollars of investment in solar, wind and hydro plants across the state.

This is on top of being a world leader in rooftop solar installations.

Unlike South Australia, Queensland hasn't just marched ahead with vainglorious hope that other states will supply its power when intermittent renewable sources can't produce enough energy.

 

Billions of dollars have been invested into renewable energy across Queensland.
Billions of dollars have been invested into renewable energy across Queensland.

 

We maintain the youngest fleet of coal and gas-fired generators in the country.

Its reverse auction for 400 megawatts of renewable energy capacity with storage solutions has been in limbo since 79 proponents lodged 115 proposals back in September 2017.

More than 30 bids were submitted to build the Clean Energy Hub, a network of transmission lines in north Queensland that will connect a string of proposed renewables projects, in the same month.

Why have these projects ground to a halt? Energy Minister Anthony Lynham won't say.

But there's a fair chance the uncertainty of energy policy coming out of Canberra has played a part.

So has the Palaszczuk Government's move to wilt to union demands to create a State-owned renewable energy company, CleanCo, a decision that must now surely be reconsidered.

However, perhaps the most pervading problem, particularly for the Clean Energy Hub, are the costs caused by the remote location.

Innovative proposals like the Kidston solar and pump hydro will exploit what the Australian Energy Market Operator has identified as some of the nation's best renewables sources.

But these projects create supply where there's currently no growth in demand and the loss factor of transporting this energy a vast distance to the southeast corner makes it very expensive.

 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk needs to make sure Queensland doesn’t stall on its way to a world-leading renewables platform. Picture: Brendan Radke
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk needs to make sure Queensland doesn’t stall on its way to a world-leading renewables platform. Picture: Brendan Radke

These issues mean there's a risk that the Clean Energy Hub will be rendered a dud.

However, the solution may not actually be that far away.

And it may work neatly in with another Labor priority, developing the North Western Minerals Province (NWMP) and turning Queensland into a world-leading supplier of rare metals and minerals, the kind that will increasingly be in demand to build solar panels and smart phones.

Mount Isa and the miners of the NWMP currently aren't connected to the national energy grid and pay some of the highest energy prices in the world.

Energy bills of residents are also significantly subsidised by taxpayers.

A proposal that shapes as a game-changer that could bring both the Government's objectives together is a $1 billion transmission line from Townsville to Mt Isa being pushed by leading north Queensland businessman John O'Brien.

The CopperString project would mean Mt Isa is finally linked to the energy grid almost a century after the region became a mining mecca, creating a customer base for the projects along the Clean Energy Hub.

Modelling conducted for O'Brien presents a compelling case.

"I've been involved in energy infrastructure investment in north Queensland for 30 years, and today we have the best experts in Australia working with us and the conclusion is clear," he says. "The Powering North Queensland Plan is a fantastic vision, but it can't be delivered without CopperString 2.0."

The Palaszczuk Government has got the essentials right for a world-leading renewables platform and future mining policy.

What's needed is the wherewithal and will to bring them together.

Maybe some free advice that Gore could offer while he's in town is that they should simply get on with it.

ALWAYS DO THE RESEARCH

FORMER Civic Cabinet member Ryan Murphy seems hell bent on proving why he hasn't been kept in Civic Cabinet.

The erstwhile councillor took to Twitter this week to tub-thump about Labor proposals to ban all manner of things like disposable nappies, straws and Round-up.

The sticky issue for Murph is that his own administration has made noises about all of the above.

LOCATION, LOCATION

JACKIE Trad's pre-budget fundraiser at Michael's Oriental Restaurant went off almost without a hitch.

Trad had some rather unkind words for The Courier-Mail during the event which was co-hosted by Peter Russo, the man many within Labor are urging her to topple so she can secure a safer seat.

The Treasurer made a keen impression yet locals still wanted to know whether she'll keep Russo's electorate office in the same location.

THAT'S GOT TO HURT

CHIEF Entrepreneur Leanne Kemp is obviously a bit of a whiz but she might have a bit of learning to do about politics.

Kemp jumped on Twitter recently to laud an LNP business policy, saying she was "looking forward to working with Deb Frecklington to further our entrepreneurs …"

Obviously, this did not go over well in the office of Annastacia Palaszczuk who, it's worth pointing out, still runs the state.

 

Entrepreneur Leanne Kemp.
Entrepreneur Leanne Kemp.

 

WILD MOB TAMED

SO MUCH for activism being a profitable industry.

Wotif.com millionaire Graeme Wood has closed down his Wild Mob movement after 11 years.

In a statement, Wild Mob said it was "not an easy or simple decision but necessary for the founders to focus resources on other vital work in fighting the insane attack on our natural world".

Much like online travel websites, maybe activism has become an overcrowded market.

RACING AHEAD

IT seems the horse has bolted on Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe. Racing Queensland is apparently about to take up new digs at 515 St Paul's Terrace for the princely sum of $575 per square metre.

They'll share the building with the Crime and Corruption Commission.

The racing mandarins have decamped their Deagon home despite explicit instructions from Hinchliffe to find a use for the site first. Racing figures are rightly questioning why RQ wouldn't find a trackside location and feed the rent money back into the industry.

 

Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

 

WANTING MOOR

A NOT-so-rare sighting outside the Government's headquarters at 1 William on the weekend was Evan Moorhead.

The Premier's former strategist-in-chief left her employ recently but it appears his services are still sorely needed.

 

NOW YOU SEE HER

SPOTTED in the wilds of South Brisbane this week was Leanne Enoch.

Confirmed public sightings of Queensland's environment minister have been rarer than the black-throated finch since the Government backtracked on Adani.

 

GOOD WEEK

Annastacia Palaszczuk (and her dad Henry) who got to celebrate with the Maroons after their victory.

 

BAD WEEK

Cameron Dick and Kate Jones, who were on trade trips and missed State of Origin.

 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"How good is Queensland" - Various