The Mackay region could be well placed to take advantage of a renewables revolution.
The Mackay region could be well placed to take advantage of a renewables revolution.

Mining v renewables: ‘It’s not either or, it’s both’

MINING and renewables are not mutually exclusive, with opportunities for the two industries to join forces and shine a light on what is possible in the future.

That’s the view of Jason Sharam who says the renewables industry cannot survive without mining which delivers the resources and base metals to create the products.

The Linked Group Services managing director said businesses needed to leverage off the mining sector to diversify into renewables.

Mr Sharam said Linked Group had gone from 80 per cent mining services to 50 per cent mining and 50 per cent manufacturing and renewable energy solutions.

“The mining industry and renewables sector work very well together. It’s not either or, it’s both,” he said.

“It’s the tyranny of ‘or’ versus the genius of ‘and’; that’s what we need to work on and that’s the opportunity for all of us.

“We’ve got a workforce here that can do both; there’s a lot of crossover and we should look at leveraging off that.

“The last thing we want is the end of coal but we all know in the long term that’s a possibility and what are we going to do, not have anything in place when it happens or be the early adopters and be at the forefront of technology in the world for what is possible?”

His comments come as the Climate Council today releases a report saying regional cities such as Mackay, Townsville and Gladstone have a proximity to renewable resources and established industrial infrastructure that makes them ideal to develop clean industries and a long-term pipeline of jobs.

It says opportunities in Mackay include the existing industrial base and the presence of a skilled workforce, combined with access to cheap, clean energy that could allow the city to expand manufacturing and other clean industries.

Renewable energy zones in Queensland. Source: AEMO (2020).
Renewable energy zones in Queensland. Source: AEMO (2020).

The Leaders and Legends: Thousands of Clean Jobs for Queenslanders report found Queensland had the natural resources to become a world leader in renewable energy, as well as in industries such as clean manufacturing, minerals processing and renewable hydrogen – bringing with it tens of thousands of jobs.

It found accelerating the development of Renewable Energy Zones would give Queensland a global competitive advantage in energy-intensive industries, create jobs for Queenslanders, and new export opportunities.

“There are so many reasons to be optimistic about Queensland’s economic future as it rebuilds from COVID-19,” Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said.

“The growth of renewable energy generation in the state is bringing down power prices, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which will help protect Queensland’s natural tourism assets, like the Great Barrier Reef.

“The Queensland Government can seize this moment to create jobs that get people back to work now, and turn Queensland into a clean industry superpower.

“Generations of Queenslanders could work in these clean industries.”

The report suggests the council’s clean jobs plan found 15,000 – 20,000 jobs could be created in Queensland across 12 policy areas in the immediate term.

Job opportunities in renewable energy
Job opportunities in renewable energy

But it also identified a haphazard approach to renewables had created inefficiency and cost issues.

“In recent years, there has been a surge in new wind and solar farms being built and connected to the grid across Australia,” the report said.

“The lack of co-ordination when rolling out new renewable projects has led to problems such as overloaded transmission lines, system security issues and constraints on renewable energy generation.

“While these issues have been manageable with current levels of development, should this continue without sufficient planning for the future, the problems will multiply.

“REZs help to address these problems and are key to planning the transition to a modern, efficient and reliable electricity system.

ISAAC/MACKAY RENEWABLE ENERGY ZONE
ISAAC/MACKAY RENEWABLE ENERGY ZONE

“REZs enable the co-ordinated, least cost development of new infrastructure, such as transmission, to ensure efficient connection of renewable energy and storage projects.

“In Queensland, the electricity network is currently configured to transport electricity from coal power stations to households and businesses, primarily in South East Queensland.

“Many wind and solar farms are not located in the same location as coal power stations and many of the best areas for industry expansion are in Central and Northern Queensland.

“This requires a reconfiguration of the power grid in Queensland to get electricity where it needs to go – that is, new and co-ordinated investment in and development of the transmission network. REZs provide this co-ordinated approach.”

Mr Sharam said the company he ran with CEO Peter Shaw recently manufactured a 1.4 megawatt solar car port for 500 cars here in Mackay and installed it at a Townsville shopping centre.

He said the unit met much of the centre’s needs during the day, supplementing power from the grid.

Mr Sharam said the Paget business was completely off the grid which was a six-and-a-half year return on investment against the cost of electricity.

“The economics (of renewables) are getting better all the time,” he said.

“The cheaper it is the more viable it is for every situation.”

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YOUR SAY: Build our future on scientific advice

Grassroots group battles for public parkland

Other report findings:

North Queensland

● The Isaac Renewable Energy Zone stretching from Abbott Point to Marlborough is already home to renewable energy projects and has potential to add another 1350MW of renewable generation within a decade.

● The REZ has battery and pumped hydro storage potential of 800MW.

● Existing industrial base and the presence of a skilled workforce, combined with access to cheap, clean energy could allow Mackay to expand manufacturing and other clean industries.

● Townsville could become a hub for lithium-ion battery manufacturing and metals processing, and Central Queensland could become a clean steel powerhouse, creating 15,000 local jobs by 2050.

● CopperString 2.0 – a proposed transmission project connecting North West Queensland to the National Electricity Market – would unlock exceptional wind and solar resources and new opportunities in mining and minerals processing. It is expected to reduce electricity prices across the region by 40 per cent.

● Construction of CopperString 2.0 is expected to create 750 direct jobs over three years, while downstream industrial opportunities the project would unlock are expected to create an additional 3560 full-time jobs.

Central Queensland

● Potential to generate 900MW of wind and solar energy within a decade, along with 400MW of energy storage.

● Existing transmission lines can support up to 2500MW of new renewable energy across the Fitzroy and Isaac REZs, but upgrading transmission would allow the region to take better advantage of its potential.

● Existing industrial base and the presence of a skilled workforce, combined with access to cheap, clean energy would allow Gladstone to tap into a growing export market for renewable hydrogen and clean steel. Clean steel alone could create 15,000 long term, well paid jobs in Central Queensland by 2050.

● Cheap, renewable energy can help guarantee the future of existing industries, such as the aluminium smelter at Boyne Island, while reduced overheads from electricity costs can allow more existing industries to expand.

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