State KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter has implored the State Government to develop a strategic partnership between the already-funded Hughenden Irrigation Project, which has the potential for large scale hydro power generation, and the state’s newest electricity business CleanCo.
The move could help drive down sky-rocketing regional energy prices and cement the North West’s future as a renewable energy powerhouse.
The Hughenden project, driven by the Hughenden Irrigation Project Corporation (HIPCO), was granted $180 million from the Federal Government late last year thanks to the efforts of the Federal Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter.
The Traeger MP said that to ensure the region, and the state, benefitted from this funding, the State Government must demonstrate its support for the project.
“We want to see that the State Government is fully committed to taking advantage of the $180 million granted by expediting state-based approvals and driving partnership opportunities, such as that being proposed with CleanCo,” he said.
“It would be an absolute tragedy, and a real insight into the motives of this government, if they were to stand idle and watch this money go begging.
“They have an opportunity to facilitate a $180 million investment in one of the most important infrastructure projects in this region in many decades and it will be of no cost to them.”
Mr Katter said the project involved the construction of the 500,00ML Alstonvale Dam at Fairlight Creek, as well as an additional 200,000ML storage at adjoined holding dams.
“The HIPCO project will enable 10,000ha irrigated farming land, and equate to dozens and dozens of permanent farming jobs on top of what employment opportunities are created during the construction period, which will be over five years.
“It also has vast hydropower capabilities, and could produce significant electricity to be harnessed by power companies when needed.”
Mr Katter said CleanCo was be an obvious partner for the delivery of the hydropower component of the HIPCO scheme, and this issue will be part of important talks between Mr Katter and State Development Minister Cameron Dick next week in Brisbane.
Mr Katter said a partnership between HIPCO and CleanCo had the potential to prove the government’s energy businesses exist to deliver for all Queenslanders and not just for dividends to the budget’s bottom line.
He said he supported CleanCo, but it was too early to say whether it will deliver value to ordinary Queenslanders.
“There are huge opportunities in the North and North West to invest in energy infrastructure to support our traditional industries,” he said.
“When looking at power production and consumption in our region overall, it’s important to stress that massive economic opportunities would be missed for Queensland if the North West Minerals Province (NWMP) remained unconnected to the National Energy Market (NEM).
“The NWMP is the foundation of the entire region’s economy, particularly in Townsville, and there are literally dozens of mining projects that could get off the ground if they had access to cheaper energy.
“By connecting the NWMP to the NEM at Townsville, electricity prices could be reduced significantly, kickstarting a new wave of investment in our traditional industries.”
The NWMP is a resource-rich region within the Traeger electorate, centred on Mount Isa.
It is currently run on an isolated electricity system powered by gas-fired generation in a market that is dominated by a single provider.
“Electricity prices for large industrial users are significantly cheaper on the east coast then they are in the NWMP,” Mr Katter said.
“This is a huge obstacle to securing not only the future of the towns in the North West, but it puts at risk the most important part of the North’s economy.
“The mining activity in the North West is worth billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to Townsville and we’re yet to see the State Government do anything material to sure up the future of this is extremely valuable part of Queensland’s economy.”
Mr Katter said he was aware of the mature proposal to connect the NWMP to the NEM through the CopperString 2.0 project, and supported any investment that could bring down electricity prices.
He also said he welcomed the State Government’s proposed investment in a clean energy hub to extend the NEM east to Hughenden.
“In combination and with the proposals from the Government and the private sector, we could finally see the NWMP province connected to the NEM,” he said.
“It’s been many years since this concept was first proposed and if it comes to fruition we will not only see a new boom in traditional mining and processing jobs, we’ll see the connection of the NWMP’s significant gas generation to the North
Queensland electricity system.
“This will support the increasing renewable generation to ensure the lights stay on when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.”