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06 February 2024

Report on Energy (Renewable Transformation and Jobs) Bill 2023 due soon

Authored by: Leanne O’Neill and Diane Coffin
This article serves as a progress update on the Bill, with a refresher on its purposes and a summary of feedback from the consultation process.

Described as ‘foundational in implementing the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan’, the Transport and Resources Committee is soon to provide its report on the Energy (Renewable Transformation and Jobs) Bill 2023.

Given this, it is timely to revisit the Bill, which was introduced into the Queensland Parliament on 24 October 2023 after weeks of consultation on an exposure draft issued in June 2023.

Main purposes of the Bill

The main purposes of the Bill are stated as:

  • increasing the amount of electricity generated in Queensland from renewable energy sources
  • facilitating and supporting the efficient and coordinated augmentation of the national transmission grid in Queensland to accommodate the increased generation of electricity from renewable energy sources in a safe, secure, reliable and cost-effective way
  • providing for support and advocacy for workers in the energy industry and communities affected by the increased generation of electricity from renewable energy sources.

How the purposes are to be achieved

The Bill states these purposes will primarily be achieved by:

  • setting renewable energy targets for electricity generation in Queensland as:
    • 50% by 2030
    • 70% by 2032
    • 80% by 2035
  • the Minister preparing a public ownership strategy setting out the following targets:
    • 100% ownership of transmission and distribution assets
    • 100% ownership of deep storage assets (defined as pumped hydro storage with a generation capacity of at least 1500MW)
    • a target equal to or more than 54% ownership of generation assets
  • providing for the identification and construction of priority transmission investments by introducing a statutory mandate for the Minister to develop an infrastructure blueprint to identify and plan significant electricity and infrastructure projects
  • providing for:
    • the declaration of renewable energy zones
    • the development and operation of transmission networks in renewable energy zones
    • coordinated and streamlined connection and access to transmission networks in renewable energy zones
  • establishing the Job Security Guarantee Fund for employees and contractors at publicly owned coal-fired power stations and other prescribed facilities to provide training for, or access to, employment opportunities and other benefits as a result of changes in operations
  • establishing the:
    • the Queensland Energy System Advisory Board to, among other things:
    • prepare an annual progress statement
    • provide advice, or make recommendations, to the Minister
  • the Energy Industry Council to undertake consultation and provide advice to the Minister
  • the Queensland Renewable Energy Jobs Advocate to, among other things:
    • provide advice to the Minister
    • carry out research
    • consult with businesses and other entities.

Feedback to Committee

Over the submission period, which ended on 10 January 2024, the Committee received 48 submissions from a wide range of entities, including the Australian Sugar Milling Council, the Climate Council of Australia and the Australian Law Society. The submissions raised a number of significant concerns, including the following.

  • The Bill allows Powerlink and the Queensland Government to make significant investment decisions. However, the new framework does not deliver transparency and rigour to scrutinise these decisions.
  • Once an area is declared a renewable energy zone, the changes give unrestricted rights to power utilities and the Minister to infringe upon property rights by giving privately owned energy projects the ability to access the transmission network via compulsory land acquisition.
  • Communities will suffer under this plan, with the majority of job retention being met through relocation packages. This would see the populations of affected communities in Queensland decline, impacting on Council revenues, school enrolments, funding and quality of education, and sporting and social clubs’ viabilities.
  • There has been a lack of consideration on the potential impact on energy prices and affordability for consumers, particularly low-income households. The changes will disproportionately increase energy costs and increase the cost of living.
  • The social impact on communities, including visual impacts, traffic disruptions, continuous noise and environmental destruction has not had enough consideration.
  • The Bill specifically excludes certain communities and workers by limiting the scope only to ‘workers in Queensland’s publicly owned coal-fired power stations’ and ensuring that only those workers have ‘a secure future, choices, and clear employment pathways and opportunities’. By excluding the supply chain from the definition of affected energy workers, the Bill creates a disenfranchised and unsupported section of the coal mining workforce.
  • The renewable energy targets in the Bill are still not consistent with a path to limit global warming to 1.5°
  • In the Explanatory Notes, the Bill seems to acknowledge the potential breach of fundamental legislative principles and that this might be inconsistent with the Legislative Standards Act 1992 (Qld), but then seeks to justify the potential breach on the basis that it is administratively inconvenient to return to Parliament to amend it, including to update key definitions or standards.

Committee report

The Committee’s report on the Bill is due on 1 March 2024. It will be interesting to see what recommendations are made to respond (or not) to the significant concerns from the diverse and wide-ranging submissions. We will keep you informed of the changes as they develop.

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This publication is for information only and is not legal advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising from this publication, please let us know.

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Key contacts

Leanne O'Neill
Diane Coffin
Diane Coffin
Special Counsel
Vanessa Thompson
Vanessa Thompson
Special Counsel

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