The Queensland Government has handed down its 2020-21 Budget, which highlights renewable investment, water security and resources exploration as key components.

The Budget includes a $500 million investment to support the development of renewable energy projects.

Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen, Mick de Brenni, said the transition to renewables in Queensland was in full swing, and Queenslanders would now reap the rewards of owning their clean energy assets for years to come.

“An affordable, reliable energy supply underpins our economic plan for post-COVID recovery, and renewables will play a central role,” Mr de Brenni said.

“Right now, renewables make up approximately 20 per cent of Queensland’s energy mix, and that figure will more than double over the next decade as we aim for 50 per cent by 2030.

“Queenslanders emphatically support more manufacturing and growth and that means we need cheaper power to support jobs growth in these emerging industries.

“We’re backing this by backing cheaper, cleaner, reliable energy sources.

“Across our entire state-owned fleet, we are investing over $2 billion into our energy assets to keep delivering the lowest wholesale electricity in Australia for industry.

“Our publicly-owned energy businesses Cleanco, Stanwell, CS Energy, Energy Queensland and Powerlink now have the opportunity to get their piece of the half-billion dollar fund to build, own and operate renewable assets and transmission infrastructure that will drive jobs in the clean energy sector.”

Mr de Brenni said the Renewable Energy Fund will kick start the next generation of renewable projects over the next four years.

In this Budget, the $500 million fund is backed-up by a $145 million investment to unlock three renewable energy zones in southern, central and northern Queensland, set to help new renewable projects flourish.

Mr de Brenni said Queensland’s renewable energy zones will help create an investment environment to support the delivery of fit-for-purpose transmission infrastructure and capitalise on existing and in-the-pipeline projects.

“Already investors are lining up to get into these renewable energy zones with around 192 projects putting their hands up to build new renewable generation and energy storage projects across the state,” Mr de Brenni said.

“Part of our post-COVID recovery plan includes investing in traditional infrastructure and supporting the renewables industry because that in turn supports jobs.

“Since 2015, 44 large-scale renewable energy projects have launched in Queensland, representing around $8.5 billion in investment and around 7,000 construction jobs.”

Mr de Brenni said the Budget will drive renewable projects and vital infrastructure, helping Queensland reach its 50 per cent renewable target by 2030, and create more jobs in the process.

Water security key for regional Queensland

The Budget includes a $40.5 million Making it in Queensland strategy, and strong support for water security and regional development.

Deputy Premier and Acting Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing and Acting Minister for Water, Steven Miles, said the Budget provided important support for regional water users, through a range of cost-reduction measures designed to cut costs for the agricultural sector.

“Water security and the cost of water are high priorities for the Palaszczuk Government,” Mr Miles said.

“That’s why the Budget will invest $81.6 million to slash irrigation water bills across the state over the next three years, which builds on the $1.2 billion we’ve invested in water infrastructure since 2017 that has already supported around 2,300 jobs.

“We’re doing this because we know that reducing irrigation water charges means reduced overall costs, more jobs and higher crop value.

“Again as we promised at the election, our government will deliver a 15 per cent cut in irrigation water charges for the 6,400 farmers who buy water from Queensland’s 35 state-owned irrigation schemes.

“This includes broad-scale crops like sugarcane.

“In addition, we will also reduce water charges by 50 per cent for fruit and vegetable growers, which in turn supports thousands of harvesting and picking jobs.

“The price drops start from 1 July next year and follow on from frozen irrigation water prices in 2020-21 as part of our ongoing COVID relief for business and industry. Government will also continue to absorb the irrigator’s share of dam safety costs.”

$10 million hydrogen pipeline

A further $10 million will be injected over the next four years to develop the renewable hydrogen industry in Queensland.

Mr de Brenni said the $10 million boost increases the State Government’s industry development funding commitment to the hydrogen industry to $25 million.

The commitment strongly aligns with Queensland’s Recovery Plan to rebuild the state economy after the effects of COVID-19.

“Renewable hydrogen offers the opportunity to create a new high-tech industry delivering enhanced environmental outcomes and highly skilled jobs,” Mr de Brenni said.

“We will use this new allocation of funding to continue working with project proponents to support renewable hydrogen projects in regional Queensland.”

Mr de Brenni said the government’s first round of the $15 million Hydrogen Industry Development Fund was quickly oversubscribed when it opened in 2019.

“The $10 million commitment extends the support available to the emerging hydrogen industry in Queensland and is expected to lead to both construction and highly-skilled operational jobs with the majority of investment interest in regional Queensland,” Mr de Brenni said.

“The next round of Queensland’s Hydrogen Industry Development Fund will open following consultation with industry set down for January 2021.

Mr de Brenni said there were four successful recipients under the first round of the Hydrogen Industry Development Fund including projects in Townsville, Brisbane, Gladstone, and the Scenic Rim.

“Australian Gas Networks will build a facility in Gladstone to deliver renewable hydrogen into the city’s gas network, and I’m pleased to announce Spicers Retreat in the Scenic Rim will also build a renewable hydrogen plant, storage system and fuel cells at their eco camps,” Mr de Brenni said.

Member for Mundingburra and government Hydrogen Champion, Les Walker, said the government’s Hydrogen Industry Development Fund would grow jobs and skills in the north.

“In Townsville, Sun Metals will build a renewable hydrogen facility and in Brisbane, the University of Queensland will replace two diesel-powered intercampus shuttle buses with hydrogen fuel cell electric buses,” Mr Walker said.

Member for Rockhampton and government Hydrogen Champion, Barry O’Rourke, said that the Queensland Government’s investment into the green hydrogen industry was catalysing investment amongst the private sector.

“These types of announcements reflect the fact that the private sector and our international partners have recognised the potential of the hydrogen industry in Queensland, to compete on global scale,” Mr O’Rourke said.

Member for Redlands and government hydrogen champion, Kim Richards, said supporting private sector investment is a focus area of the Queensland Hydrogen Industry Strategy 2019-2024.

As part of the broader commitment by the government to industry training and skills, in relation to the hydrogen industry the Queensland Government has committed:

  • $20 million towards a Queensland Apprenticeships Centre in renewable hydrogen at Beenleigh
  • $10.6 million towards a Hydrogen and Renewable Energy training facility at Bohle TAFE in Townsville (Department of Employment Small Business and Training)
  • $2 million has been committed to upgrade training facilities at Gladstone State High School to prepare students for jobs in the hydrogen industry

“We have always recognised training as a pathway for many Queenslanders to get into a rewarding job. With COVID-19, training has become even more critical in ensuring Queensland workers can keep working or access emerging job opportunities,” Ms Richards said.

“The hydrogen industry has the potential to be a multibillion-dollar industry and the investment in training is to ensure we have people with the skills and training ready to meet the demand as it grows, and ensure the safe and sustainable development of the hydrogen industry.”

“This government will continue to invest in programs like this to make a stronger and more diverse economy as we unite and recover for Queensland jobs.”

Gas and mineral exploration

Exploration grants and initiatives totalling $29 million have also been included in the Budget, to be delivered over the next few years.  

Minister for Resources, Scott Stewart, said the Budget boost for exploration would help drive future resource projects and the thousands of jobs that would flow from them.

“Queenslanders elected the Palaszczuk Government so we could keep delivering our strong health response and our plan for economic recovery,” Mr Stewart said.

“An important part of that plan is continuing to invest in and support our world-class resource sector.”

Resource exploration funding includes:

  • $9 million to help explorers discover new economy minerals that are high in demand globally in the renewables and tech sectors
  • Fast-tracking $2 million in spending to understand the potential for rare earth minerals
  • $11.7 million in the following three years as new economy minerals will deliver the jobs of the future
  • $3.3 million will help boost gas and mineral exploration through the Strategic Resources Exploration Program
  • $5 million over the next two years on investigating potential new gas pipeline infrastructure to connect gas reserves in the Bowen Basin to domestic customers and exports

“In addition, to help keep explorers on the hunt we’ve also waived $9.8 million in state rent to back explorers and have frozen exploration fees and charges until 1 July 2021,” Mr Stewart said.

Mr Stewart said an $845,000 investment will be provided to make data collected from exploration projects freely available from January 2021 via the State Government’s geological database.

“Everything learned from the exploration projects will be shared with the whole sector, helping to stimulate more mines, jobs and exports for Queensland,” Mr Stewart said.

“Investing in infrastructure and supporting exploration is fundamental to maintaining ongoing resources investment and jobs into the future.”

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