Australian state unveils $40 bln clean energy plan to slash reliance on coal

Wider Image - Great Barrier Reef At Risk
Port workers load a ship with coal at the RG Tanna Coal Terminal located at the town of Gladstone in Queensland, Australia, June 12, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray

SYDNEY, Sept 28 (Reuters) - One of Australia's top coal-producing states said it will convert its coal-fired power plants to renewable hubs by 2035 under a A$62 billion ($40 billion) clean energy plan unveiled on Wednesday which would slash its reliance on fossil fuels.

Queensland would source 70% of its energy needs from renewables by 2032 and 80% by 2035, versus the previous target of 50% by 2030, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

The 10-year plan was the "biggest commitment to renewable energy in Australia's history," she said in a statement, adding it included a A$150 million support package for affected workers.

It also envisaged construction of a dam and pumped hydropower project in the Pioneer Valley near Mackay that would supply half of Queensland's future energy needs.

The clean energy plans include a new supergrid connecting solar, wind, battery and hydrogen generators across the state unlocking 22 GW of new renewable capacity, eight times current levels.

Queensland's eight coal-fired plants, some of which are not due to retire until the 2040s, would remain as backup until replacement pumped hydro energy storage was operational.

The total planned investment out to 2035 would be shared between the public and private sectors.

The decisions come a week after three South Korean groups said they planned to build a green energy export hub in Queensland, aiming to produce a million tonnes of green ammonia - considered a key alternative to coal in power generation - annually for export by 2032.

The northeastern state's clean energy goals also align with the federal Labor government's commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Australia's Clean Energy Council, the peak body for the renewable energy industry, said Queensland's plans were "bold and transformational" and could cut by 90% its electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions on 2005 levels by 2035-36.

($1 = 1.5654 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Stephen Coates

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