Queensland will spend $2bn to boost renewable energy jobs, with the premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, describing the announcement as a “watershed moment” for the state’s economic development.
The $2bn fund will help develop a clean hydrogen industry, mine minerals needed for solar panels, build hydrogen plants, batteries and electric vehicles, and increase manufacturing across the renewables supply chain, the state government said on Thursday.
Palaszczuk told an energy forum in Townsville the fund would support a “self-reinforcing cycle of investment – a job-generating clean energy industrial ecosystem”.
Environment groups said the announcement would push the state’s economy away from fossil fuels and put Queensland in a position to be a clean energy leader. But they said the state also needed to improve its climate targets.
The $2bn fund includes a previously announced $500m to drive publicly-owned renewables in the state. Palaszczuk said on Thursday spending on publicly-owned renewable energy generation would need to be linked to local manufacturing.
“That means not just mining the minerals for batteries and renewables in Queensland – it means processing the minerals and making batteries and renewables here as well,” she said. “I want to see hydrogen electrolysers built locally and local assembly of wind turbines and solar panels because that means local jobs.”
The Labor leader said growing a hydrogen industry would enable the energy from the state’s solar and wind to be exported and drive down future transport emissions.
The state energy minister, Mick de Brenni, said: “There is no reason why solar panels, electrolysers, batteries, windfarm components and new technology can’t be manufactured right here in Queensland.”
“This fund will create a pipeline of demand for local manufacturing across the entire value chain, and that means more jobs for Queenslanders,” he said.
The environment and Great Barrier Reef minister, Meaghan Scanlon, said the fund would help “drive down emissions and create jobs”.
Queensland contributes about a third of Australia’s greenhouse gas footprint.
The state government has said it wants to reach net zero emissions by 2050 but campaigners say its 2030 target to cut emissions from 2005 levels by 30% is too weak and could be missed.
Jason Lyddieth, a climate change campaigner at the Australian Conservation Foundation, said Thursday’s announcement was a significant investment in a move away from coal and “positions Queensland to become a big clean energy exporter”.
“Climate change is a real and serious threat to our way of life, so – as well as boosting renewables capacity – Queensland needs to get out of coal and gas,” he said. “We need a plan to look after the workers, communities and families who will be most affected by the inevitable transition away from fossil fuels.”
David Cazzulino, the Great Barrier Reef campaigner at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the fund was good news for the reef.
“Unlocking clean renewable energy and storage is key to tackling climate change, our reef’s greatest threat,” he said on Thursday.
The Electrical Trades Union divisional branch secretary, Peter Ong, said: “It’s the right start for Queensland and I feel we are on the right track with this investment. It is important to remember this is only the first step in a just transition to renewables.”
Ong said there would need to be ongoing investment to ensure a “just transition” as energy workers moved out of fossil fuels and into renewables.
Meanwhile, Japanese companies Sojitz and ENEOS announced on Thursday they were to start construction on a joint venture 204MW solar farm at Edenvale, about 300km west of Brisbane.
About 70% of the power would be sold to an electricity retailer with the rest going to power operations at Sojitz’s Gregory Crinum coking coalmine near Emerald.