Why Gladstone can look forward to cheaper power
ELECTRICITY prices will drop for Central Queenslanders, providing job security for almost 3000 locals employed by Rio Tinto, both the government and opposition claim.
When announcing its half-yearly figures last week, the global mining giant signalled power prices as a critical issue to its ongoing interests in the Gladstone region.
The issue arose when Rio announced it was writing down the value of its Pacific Aluminium assets, including Boyne Smelters Limited and its Yarwun refinery, by $472 million.
“At a high level, what we want to do is to find a way to secure a power supply which is globally competitive, in order to make sure we maintain those assets and continue to be in a position to be able to continue to invest in those assets in the short, medium and long term,”
Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques said.
“The team is working very hard to make sure we find a solution as quickly as we can for the benefit of all parties involved.”
Energy, Mines and Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the government was focused on driving down power prices and delivering to keep Rio Tinto jobs in Gladstone.
“We are working closely with Rio Tinto to understand the future of their operations in Gladstone and whether there is any opportunity for our government to work collaboratively with them to secure the future of the smelter in Gladstone,” he said.
“The government understand the cost of living pressures faced by Queenslanders and that is why we are so focused on putting further downward pressure on electricity prices.
“Prices in regional Queensland have fallen for three years in a row.
“Under the government’s $2 billion Affordable Energy Plan, we continue to deliver on our commitment to put downward pressure on electricity prices.
“It is hypocritical for the LNP Opposition to be talking about power prices at all after power prices went up 43 per cent on their watch.”
Dr Lynham said profits from government owned electricity went back to the people.
“We used the dividends from publicly-owned electricity generating assets to provide two $50 asset dividend payments to more than 1.9 million households, as a credit on their electricity bills,” he said.
“The Palaszczuk Government is subsidising regional electricity prices by almost half-a-billion dollars this year so families in Gladstone pay the same as families in the southeast corner.
“Queensland’s renewable revolution is also putting downward pressure on electricity prices, with the state now boasting almost 6700 megawatts of renewable energy generation capacity either operational and committed.
“As a result of all these measures on our Affordable Energy Plan, a typical regional small business will have saved in total around $1000 and a typical household $600 over three years.”
Shadow Energy Minister Michael Hart said lower power prices were firmly on the LNP’s radar.
“The LNP understands the importance of cheaper electricity to boost manufacturing jobs in Queensland,” he said.
“Reducing the cost of electricity allows us to be more globally competitive, while protecting local jobs.
Mr Hart said the LNP would ensure Gladstone residents and businesses paid less for electricity.
“The LNP’s policy to introduce regional retail competition will allow Gladstone residents and small business owners to shop around and save around $300 a year off their electricity bill,” he said.
“South-East Queenslanders have the benefits of shopping around between 27 different retailers, but regional Queensland is chained to Ergon.
“We want to stop Labor’s policy of treating regional Queenslanders like second class consumers.”
LNP Candidate for Gladstone Ron Harding said if elected he was determined to ensure a fair deal for industry, plus every resident and business in Gladstone.
“The LNP will introduce retail competition into the electricity market and give the people outside southeast Queensland the opportunity to shop around for the best deals,” he said.
“Our plan will drive down the average household electricity bill by $300 a year.”
Cheaper power prices, Mr Harding said, wouldn’t just be for people from South East Queensland.
“We will make sure people in the regions get access to the same special deals as people in South East Queensland,” he said.
“In regional Queensland its only Ergon.”
Opening up the regional electricity market, Mr Harding said, would have additional flow-on benefits.
“Shopping around will mean better deals and better customer service,” he said.
“The LNP will stimulate the economy, create jobs and drag Queensland out of the recession by slashing regional electricity bills.”
Gladstone MP Glenn Butcher’s office was contacted for comment.