Powering North Queensland - renewable energy summit, Townsville

The Powering North Queensland Summit organised by the Australian Solar Council and the Energy Storage Council was held in Townsville on August 31. The list of speakers included Curtis Pitt, local MPs and senior management from a dozen renewable energy projects - Copperstring, Genex, Infigen and more. “Community groups” were encouraged to attend; NQCC was represented by the President, Gail Hamilton. Dr Bill Laing, NQCC member and committed campaigner for solar energy, also attended and was kind enough to send us his summary. Here it is.

The summit was a big deal, attended by 100 international renewable industry experts plus key Government representatives: State Premier, State Treasurer, one Federal MP, three State MP’s, Townsville City Deputy Mayor and more.

  • Renewables are booming even faster than anyone could have foreseen at the beginning of 2017. At the Summit it was called the Silent Investment Boom. 
  • Townsville homes are getting batteries installed and smart switches and smart meters to complement their rooftop PV installations. Some are moving off the electricity grid already.
  • Nine solar power stations are being built right now at SunMetals, Ross River, Haughton (near Woodstock), Clare, Collinsville, Kidston, Hughenden (two), and Emerald Hill near Mareeba. These collectively will generate as much electricity as one coal-fired power station, and inside 18 months. There are already 1,000 workers employed, and another 10 power stations are ramping up over the next two years. 
  • The Queensland LNP's proposed coal-fired power station in North Queensland would take 7 years and $3 billion to build, and generate fewer jobs than the 21 renewable power stations that are being built right now and will begin generating electricity (partly baseload) in 3 months.
  • The 21 renewable power station construction projects which are already planned and funded will provide 2700 direct jobs and require a monstrous array of physical components; summit estimates were 7,500,000 industrial PV cells, 1,000 wind turbines with their towers and vanes. These will require (my estimate) 80,000 semi-trailers which will each travel about 400 kilometres, totalling 32,000,000 truck kilometres.
  • The beauty of renewables that all speakers emphasised in one form or another, is that they are decentralised or “democratised”. Communities all around Townsville region are building, running, and getting the electricity from, their local solar or wind power station; some small, some big. An indigenous component of the workforce is being insisted on in many of these projects.
  • Renewable electricity is already considerably cheaper than fossil-fuelled electricity. That applies at both  wholesale and retail (to the consumer) levels, and the price is getting significantly less all the time - like computers have been doing for the last decade. Anyone who tells you that renewables are the cause of electricity price gouging is simply lying or terribly ignorant.


Further reading

  • More about the Summit, from the organisers: overview and speaker program
  • Energy Queensland announces the creation of Australia’s largest “virtual power plant” at the close of the Summit.
  • The Climate Council created this review to help the community understand the Finkel Review but it doubles as an excellent quick guide to the renewables vs fossil fuels debate.

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  • Dr Bill Laing