Where Does Queensland Get Its Energy From?

Queensland has a diverse energy mix consisting of coal, natural gas, and renewable sources. The state generates most of its electricity from coal and natural gas, while also rapidly expanding its renewable energy capacity in recent years. Coal has historically been Queensland’s largest source of energy due to the state’s abundant black coal reserves. However, natural gas usage has been rising, and renewables like solar and wind are playing an increasingly important role.

In terms of consumption, the manufacturing, mining, and residential sectors account for the bulk of Queensland’s energy use. With a growing population and economy, energy demand is projected to increase in the coming decades. Striking a balance between affordable, reliable energy and environmental sustainability will be an ongoing priority for Queensland’s energy policy and planning.


Coal is a major energy source for Queensland, which is one of the world’s largest coal producing regions. In 2019-2020, Queensland produced 233 million tonnes (Mt) of coal, accounting for over 50% of Australia’s total coal production.[1] Queensland has large reserves of high-quality metallurgical and thermal coal, which are exported internationally.

coal train transporting coal in queensland

The majority of Queensland’s coal production is exported overseas. In 2019-2020, around 214 Mt or 86% of Queensland’s coal production was exported.[1] Queensland’s coal exports go primarily to Asian markets, with the top importers being Japan, China, India, South Korea and Taiwan.[2] These exports make a major contribution to Queensland’s economy.

Coal will likely continue to be a significant energy source for Queensland in the near future, especially for export markets in Asia. However, there is a long-term policy focus on transitioning to lower-emission energy sources over the coming decades.

Natural Gas

Queensland has significant natural gas reserves located in the Bowen and Surat Basins in the state’s south. The majority of Queensland’s natural gas production comes from coal seam gas (CSG), also known as coalbed methane. CSG is extracted from coal deposits and makes up over 90% of the state’s gas production (APPEA 2014). In 2018, Queensland produced over 1300 petajoules of CSG from the Surat Basin alone (DNRME 2018). These massive CSG reserves have enabled Queensland to become Australia’s second largest natural gas producer.

While conventional natural gas production has been declining in Queensland, CSG production continues to increase as new projects come online. Queensland’s CSG reserves provide feedstock for LNG export as well as domestic gas usage. The development of this previously untapped CSG resource has allowed Queensland to build a major LNG export industry and become one of the world’s largest LNG exporters.

Renewable Energy

Queensland has seen rapid growth in renewable energy, especially from solar and wind. According to the Queensland government, over 30 large-scale renewable energy projects worth $9 billion have been completed since 2015, generating over 4,400 megawatts of renewable energy capacity across the state.[1]

Queensland has an abundance of solar resources, receiving more than 5.7 kilowatt hours per square metre per day on average. This has driven massive growth in solar PV installations, with rooftop solar capacity reaching 8,000 megawatts in 2021. Large-scale solar farms have also proliferated, with 24 projects completed since 2018 adding over 3,700 megawatts of solar capacity.[2]

Wind power is also expanding rapidly, supplying over 4,400 gigawatt hours in 2020-21. This was more than double the output just two years prior. Queensland now has 24 operating wind farms representing over 1,750 megawatts of installed capacity.[3]

Other renewable sources like bioenergy and hydroelectricity currently play a smaller role but provide additional clean energy options moving forward.

Electricity Generation

Electricity generation in Queensland comes from a mix of sources including coal, gas, and renewable energy. According to the Queensland Government, the state has an installed generation capacity of around 17,000 megawatts, excluding rooftop solar systems, as of June 2023. https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industries/mining-energy-water/energy/electricity/queensland/generation

Coal-fired power has historically been the dominant source of electricity generation in Queensland. Thermal coal provides the fuel for coal power plants. According to the Australian Energy Market Commission, coal-fired plants near Brisbane and Rockhampton/Gladstone previously accounted for most of the state’s generation capacity. https://www.aemc.gov.au/energy-system/electricity/changing-generation-mix/qld

However, the generation mix has diversified in recent years. In 2007-2008, 88% of Queensland’s electricity came from black coal, 10% from gas, and 2% from renewable sources. More recently, renewables like solar and wind have grown as a share of generation. Natural gas provides fuel for gas-fired power plants as well. The state government has set renewable energy targets to continue diversifying electricity sources going forward.

Electricity Consumption

Queensland consumed around 25% of Australia’s total electricity in 2021-22 (States and territories). The industrial sector is the largest consumer of electricity in Queensland with 32% of consumption, followed by the services sector at 27%, and households at 28% (Australia Energy Information). Major industrial electricity consumption comes from mining, mineral processing, and metal manufacturing located in regional and remote areas of Queensland.

Residential electricity use in Queensland is driven by air conditioning, hot water systems, and appliances. Air conditioning accounts for up to 50% of household electricity consumption. Commercial electricity demand comes from offices, shops, hotels, restaurants, and other services. Queensland’s widespread population and hot climate lead to high peak energy demands for residential air conditioning in summer.

Future Outlook

The future energy mix in Queensland will likely continue to shift towards renewable sources of energy like solar and wind. According to the Queensland Renewable Energy Expert Panel Draft Report, the state has set a target of 50% renewable energy by 2030 (source). This will require a major expansion of large-scale renewable energy projects across the state.

Modelling by the Panel shows that Queensland can achieve its 50% target through around 6,000MW of new large-scale renewable projects. Most of this new capacity is expected to come from solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind farms, with up to 5,000MW of new solar and 2,000MW of new wind likely needed. Queensland has an abundance of solar and wind resources that can support this growth (source).

While coal will remain an important part of Queensland’s energy mix in the medium-term, its share of electricity generation is projected to decline as old coal plants retire and more renewables come online. Gas is also expected to play a key role in supporting grid reliability as the penetration of intermittent renewables increases.

Energy Policy

The Queensland government has implemented various policies related to energy production and consumption in the state. Some key energy policies include:

The Queensland Energy Policy, developed in 2000, aims to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency in the state. It sets renewable energy targets and provides incentives for renewable projects.

The Powering Queensland Plan, released in 2017, outlines goals for renewable energy expansion, biofuel mandates, and energy storage deployment.

The Queensland Renewable Energy Target mandates that 50% of the state’s energy should come from renewable sources by 2030.

The Queensland Government has renewable energy auction schemes to procure renewable energy capacity. The latest auction in 2020 procured 1,070 MW of new renewable energy capacity.

There are also policies and programs focused on energy efficiency, such as building standards and appliance rebates.

Environmental Impact

Queensland has traditionally relied heavily on coal for electricity generation. Coal produces large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. According to the Queensland government, the state’s electricity sector accounted for 30% of emissions in 2016 (source).

In recent years, Queensland has been transitioning to renewable energy sources like solar and wind to reduce emissions from the electricity sector. The state government has set renewable energy targets of 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2035 (source). Meeting these targets will require a massive expansion of large-scale solar and wind farms across Queensland.

The transition to renewables will significantly reduce emissions from electricity generation and help Queensland achieve its goal of net zero emissions by 2050. Phasing out coal and replacing it with clean energy sources like solar and wind is critical for mitigating the environmental impacts of energy production in Queensland.


In summary, Queensland has historically relied heavily on coal for its electricity generation. However, the state has been diversifying its energy mix and exploring more renewable sources like solar, wind, and hydro in recent years. This is important for providing clean energy to support economic growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Queensland has abundant coal and natural gas resources, making them logical energy sources for the state. But over-reliance on any single fuel source carries risks. Developing a diverse mix of energy sources increases resiliency and sustainability. Renewable energy is becoming more cost competitive while supporting the state’s environmental goals.

Energy policy will continue shaping Queensland’s energy future. The state must balance economic interests with environmental stewardship as it transitions to a cleaner energy system. Overall, Queensland is making progress but still has work ahead to achieve its energy and emissions targets. A diverse energy mix will be key to providing affordable, reliable, and clean power for decades to come.

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