Energy-intensive manufacturing, such as aluminium smelters, came to cities like Gladstone because cheap electricity was already available
Energy-intensive manufacturing, such as aluminium smelters, came to cities like Gladstone because cheap electricity was already available

'Million Jobs Plan': Attracting new industry to Gladstone

Designating cities such as Gladstone as 'renewable energy industrial zones' could attract more energy-intensive industries that prize clean fuel sources.

The premise centres on the availability of cheap energy that historically came from coal-fired power stations in Central Queensland.

"In the past energy-intensive manufacturing, such as aluminium smelters, came to Australia because cheap electricity was already available," a briefing paper from climate change think tank Beyond Zero Emissions states.

"In a decarbonising world, Australia can again follow this strategy to attract new industries."

Gladstone MP and Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing, Glenn Butcher said the city was well positioned to support large scale renewable energy.

Access to the port and the state development land are significant incentives for development.

Recent projects slated for the city that highlighted solar energy as a key part of their plans include a $4.2 million facility will mix up hydrogen with the city's gas network and a multibillion-dollar ammonia and hydrogen production complex.

The paper calls on Governments to underwrite renewable energy in traditional industrial heartlands including Gladstone, the Hunter and Latrobe valleys and Whyalla as well as areas with growth potential such as Mount Isa.

Long-term fixed prices of A$50-$55 per megawatt-hour would give businesses certainty on energy cost.

"Abundant renewable energy at guaranteed price will establish Australia as a top destination for energy intensive clean industry such as green hydrogen and zero emissions metals," it states.

Beyond Zero Emissions is working to finalise a post-COVID economic recovery, 'The Million Jobs Plan' that it says will pave the way for Australia to become a renewable energy superpower.

"The Million Jobs Plan aims to show a way forward to make Australia more prosperous, fairer and more resilient. This means that jobs need to be local, lasting, secure, well-paid and backed by safe and fair working conditions," the briefing paper states.

The plan relies on building mass-scale renewables that will deliver enough cheap energy to sustain industries such as renewable hydrogen, energy-intensive manufacturing, zero-emissions steel and electricity exports.

Beyond Zero Emissions claims Australia's access to wind and solar resources make it unique in the world.

"Combined with a large landmass and small population, this gives Australia a crucial energy-cost advantage in a decarbonising world," it states.

As well as underwriting renewable energy in industrial zones, it proposes "side stepping" regulatory hurdles that usually slow down the building of new transmission lines and supporting onshore manufacturing.

"In return for underwriting renewable energy development, governments should require local production of equipment," it states.

"The biggest potential employers are wind turbine and battery manufacturing, with further opportunities from making transmission components."