Making Central Queensland a renewable energy powerhouse needs a transition away from coal

12 October

Queensland Conservation Council welcomes the announcement of a statement of cooperation between the Queensland Deputy Premier and Rio Tinto to seize the opportunities presented by clean energy and make Central Queensland an industrial and renewable energy powerhouse.

This continues a busy few days in announcements for Queensland’s renewable energy future, after Fortescue Future Industry (FFI) announced the first investment in an up to $1bn green hydrogen and manufacturing hub at Gladstone on Sunday and a feasibility study into producing green ammonia in Brisbane on Monday. 

Queensland Conservation Council Energy Strategist, Clare Silcock said “We are pleased to see the businesses and government working together to develop the hydrogen industry in Queensland as a key part of the transition to renewable energy and look forward to the next step in the transition: a clear plan and schedule to close coal fired power stations.” 

“Rio Tinto’s Boyne Island smelter is supplied by Gladstone Power Station, the oldest, dirtiest and most expensive power station in Queensland. As new renewable energy enters the market, Gladstone is increasingly unable to compete. Its utilisation, measured by capacity factor, in 2020-21 was less than 45%. It has routinely been operating for weeks at a time with only half of its six units online,” Ms Silcock said. 

“Rio Tinto's contract for energy with Gladstone Power Station is due to expire in 2029, if it can continue in the market this long, and there needs to be a clear plan to ensure the future of the smelter and its 944 workers beyond this.”

The hydrogen and manufacturing opportunities in Central Queensland depend on these products being truly zero carbon and produced by renewable energy to be able to sell into international markets with strong carbon reduction commitments. 

“We have the technology we need to replace coal fired electricity with clean, reliable renewable energy and storage,” Ms Silcock said.

“As well as building the infrastructure required for green hydrogen and associated industries we also need to be planning for the closure of the dirty fossil fuel assets that will hold us back from becoming a renewable energy superpower,” she said. 

Media contact: Energy Strategist Clare Silcock, [email protected] 0481055531