Renewables wave for coronavirus recovery

Rebecca GredleyAAP
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says Australia's biggest solar farm is being constructed.
Camera IconQueensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says Australia's biggest solar farm is being constructed.

Renewable energy projects and decarbonising the economy are set to be key to Australia's recovery from coronavirus.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and most state energy ministers took part in a Smart Energy Council online summit on Wednesday, promoting the need to transition to clean energy.

Ms Palaszczuk used the summit to announce Australia's biggest solar farm is just about shovel ready, with work to begin in July.

The Darling Downs solar farm will create 400 jobs and 400 MW of energy.

"As we further develop our economic recovery plan, I'll be having more to say about how we support our infrastructure to unlock renewable energy zones in Queensland," she said.

"Our economy is very resilient because it's diverse and it's decentralised. I see a future where renewables and new technologies support even more jobs in more industries across our regions."

Publicly-owned generator CleanCo will buy 320MW of the output from farm owner Neoen.

The project will power about 235,000 Queensland homes.

ACT Energy Minister Shane Rattenbury says the nation can't go back to normal, and should focus on a clean and green economy after the virus.

"A better normal does mean recovering from this pandemic, but in a way that doesn't just expose us to other global threats like climate change," he said.

"If we escape COVID but don't deal with climate change we are almost literally stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire."

Australian Industry Group chief Innes Willox renewed calls for a bipartisan energy policy and a reset in how the nation deals with climate change to reach net zero emissions.

Former ACT energy minister, and advisor for Energy Estate Simon Corbell says the federal government is wrong to focus on gas, as it will create a myriad of new problems.

It's not sustainable or regenerative, he added.

Mr Corbell says recovery should focus on two themes - resilience and regeneration.

"Projects don't just ameliorate bad, they do good, they give back to regional economies, they give back to the environment, they give back to the communities that need the most."

Such an approach doesn't ask people to take a view on climate change transitions, he said.

"Instead it focuses on outcomes, not the pathways to get there."

Melbourne University Professor Ross Garnaut said the cost of transitioning to renewables has dropped steadily, and would now be a negative cost.

Temperatures will keep rising until net zero emissions are met, he added.

"We're rapidly losing whatever advantages we have in the high cost thermal energy economy."

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