North Queensland Power Prices Uncertain

hydro plant stillMeridian Energy Australia recently announced that it will not proceed with the Burdekin Hydro Power Generation project in Northern Queensland due to destabilising revisions to Australian energy policy sought by the Federal Government.

Meridian acquired the rights to develop the project that would harness the otherwise wasted power of the largest dam in Australia at Burdekin Falls in April 2013.

Charters Towers Mayor, Frank Beveridge, says the decision for the project not to go head is disappointing but understandable due to the federal government’s future uncertainty.

“Unfortunately it means a little bit more uncertainty around the power prices, obviously, we would have liked to of seen the hydro scheme go ahead.

“It would have ensured future lower prices, there wouldn’t be the same transmission issues as with power stations down in central Queensland, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“It’s understandable with the federal government being unsure of its direction,” he says.

Over the past 18 months, Meridian has worked with local communities, landowners, SunWater and the Queensland Government to successfully position the project to deliver significant benefits to the wider Northern Queensland region, says Meridian Energy Australia Chief Executive Ben Burge.

“Meridian understands the disappointment that the people of Northern Queensland will feel on learning of this decision. However, the Federal Government’s protracted efforts to reduce the Renewable Energy Target have made long term capital investments in energy assets in this country nearly impossible.

“This is especially disappointing given the role that the Burdekin project stood to play in enhancing energy security in Northern Queensland, which is expected to emerge as a threat in the medium term,” says Burge.

But for regulatory uncertainty around the Renewable Energy Target, the Burdekin Project stood to meet the growing energy needs of agricultural and mineral businesses of the region, providing around 150 local jobs (including training for indigenous communities) during development and construction.

“Meridian’s and Powershop’s hope was to deliver meaningful savings in Queensland with the Burdekin project as a foundation investment. Sadly, the decision to undermine the long term investment signals of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) makes it more difficult to realise these benefits for Queensland businesses and households,” says Burge.

Mayor Frank Beveridge says he wasn’t surprised the funding for the project had been cut due to the current federal government’s uncertain economic climate. He says, the project simply cannot stand on its own with the lack of guarantee from the federal government to commitment to renewable energy targets.

“The federal government has cut back on their spending and there’s certainly no guarantee on their renewable energy targets and this was based around that.

“To build this sort of infrastructure you need some certainty and the federal and state government both being broke, the normal money that gets funnelled into these projects doesn’t exist. It obviously doesn’t stand on its own as a commercial project.

Frank Beveridge says despite the disappointment of the project being scrapped he remains hopeful that it will go ahead in the future.

“It’s a bit of a shame, but it didn’t mean the Burdekin dam wall had to be raised at all, it will sit on the shelf, and it may be picked up by another company when the economic climate turns,” he says.