Large scale solar projects will provide the next boom industry for Queensland.
That’s the view of Origin Energy managing director Grant King, who has likened the future of solar to that of Queensland’s multi-billion dollar coal seam gas to liquefied natural gas (CSG-LNG) industry.
Mr King says about 250 large megawatt utility-scale solar projects would need to be built to meet Australia’s renewable energy target of 33,000 gigawatt hours by 2020.
That number would need to be much higher to meet the country’s carbon emission reduction target of 26 per cent by 2030, he said.
But he insisted Queensland would become the centre of utility-scale solar, just like it had for LNG production.
“I would think the next great round of investment in Queensland will be utility scale solar,” Mr King told a Centre for Economic Development of Australia lunch in Brisbane.
“The prospectors are in Queensland looking for utility-scale solar sites – that tells you what’s going to happen.
“Ten years ago, 15 years ago the prospectors were in Queensland looking for CSG resources.”
Mr King said the industry would require tens of billions of dollars in investment from the private sector, which would need to be supported by favourable government policies.
“I’ve got no doubt that the private sector has to step up on those investments,” he said.
“And in order to do that, you need a little bit of confidence that the structures that are put in place will sustain, that you can rely on them.”
Mr King said Queensland was also well placed to help reduce carbon emissions on a global scale.
He said the state’s carbon-emitting industries such as LNG and coal would do that by exporting more efficient products to replace dirty brown coal used by industrial powerhouses such as China.
Mr King’s comments came on the same day Queensland’s Energy Minister Mark Bailey announced the state government would increase its promised renewable energy auction process, a reverse auction in which the government pays the generator for the difference between a feed-in tariff rate and the prevailing wholesale price of electricity.
The policy, similar to ones successfully implemented in Brazil, South Africa and the ACT, would aim to lower market risk for businesses, allowing them to access finance, generate investment and create jobs.