Qld a leader in solar? Not under current govt, say experts

The Climate Commission says Queensland could be a leader in concentrated solar thermal power, but the political will is lacking. AAP

Around the clock solar power could be a reality for Australians in the foreseeable future, but experts say a hostile state government stands in the way of Queensland becoming the solar power leader suggested by the Climate Commission.

The latest instalment from the Climate Commission on the impacts and opportunities of climate change is “wilfully blind to reality”, with no mention of the massive coal and coal seam gas industries in Queensland, said Chris McGrath, senior lecturer in environmental regulation at the University of Queensland.

The report says Queensland’s solar resources are among the best in the world, and the state should take more advantage of the opportunity.

But in the absence of positive deployment policies from the state government, it will take some time to see large solar power stations serving retail customers, said Mark Diesendorf, deputy director of the Institute of Environmental Studies at University of New South Wales.

The Climate Commission’s report cites the Kogan Creek Solar Boost Project, which will provide a solar thermal addition to the neighbouring coal-fired power station, expected to be the largest solar integration project in the world.

But in July, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman withdrew $75 million in funding from the proposed stand-alone 250 megawatt Solar Dawn project near Chinchilla.

Dr Diesendorf said concentrated solar thermal could be vital to solar power generation in the longer term.

“It’s not very expensive to store the heat on concentrated solar thermal and therefore have 24 hour solar power.”

But with several coal-fired power stations running at less than capacity in Queensland, organisations investing in new solar infrastructure will find it difficult to compete, Dr McGrath said.

He added that the government’s focus remained on coal and coal seam gas, with renewables seen as a small component only.

“They’re talking about Queensland as a leader for solar, but Queensland’s going backwards in terms of participating in any funding for addressing climate change, and unwinding programs.”

Dr McGrath said the picture painted by the Climate Commission in its report is the same one that’s been painted for ten years with no action taken.

He said a blunter approach was needed from the Commission and agreed that while it may not be an advocacy group, it was up to scientists to point out the consequences of policy choices.

“It’s not advocating if you say the 5% by 2020 goal will lead to three degrees warming and we won’t have a Great Barrier Reef at this point. That’s just joining the dots for people to see.”

The Climate Commission’s report warns that the state’s agriculture, tourism and property are all at risk as a result of climate change, calling for a rethink of business models.