Tal­ly­ing en­ergy op­tions

Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION -

COM­PE­TI­TION drives suc­cess. It also pro­vides good out­comes for con­sumers.

In this light, it is im­pos­si­ble to side with Townsville hote­liers who are re­sist­ing plans for a new 4.5- star, 175- bed ho­tel to be de­vel­oped along­side the new North Queens­land Sta­dium.

They do, how­ever, make some valid points on the need to in­crease vis­i­tor num­bers to the city and for more events and venues like a new con­fer­ence and con­ven­tion cen­tre.

The Townsville Ma­jor Ac­com­mo­da­tion Providers group raises un­palat­able re­al­i­ties about mar­ket con­di­tions in the re­gion.

That Townsville has not sold out of ho­tel rooms on any given day in the past five years and reached only 60 per cent oc­cu­pancy in the past year re­flects the dif­fi­cult con­di­tions the city and its ac­com­mo­da­tion op­er­a­tors have en­dured.

The min­ing boom has come crash­ing back to earth, al­beit with some re­cent re­cov­ery, and pub­lic spend­ing on in­fra­struc­ture has fallen off a cliff.

This has com­bined to de­liver a king hit to the re­gion’s econ­omy.

But it is not an ar­gu­ment to put up the shut­ters and re­ject new devel­op­ment.

A lux­ury 4.5- star ho­tel along­side the sta­dium is just the ticket needed for re­cov­ery.

The fact that such a highly re­garded ho­tel brand at Hil­ton Dou­ble Tree wants to take a po­si­tion in the city is a pos­i­tive sign for our fu­ture.

A ho­tel along­side the sta­dium is pre­cisely what the city wants to achieve.

It is hoped the sta­dium can be the cat­a­lyst for more devel­op­ment on the many va­cant sites around the city ripe for re­newal and re­use.

The need for a clear and ac­tive events strat­egy to max­imise use of the sta­dium is as plain as day.

The city also needs a new en­ter­tain­ment cen­tre.

The Townsville City Coun­cil con­tin­ues to push the case.

Refin­ing a busi­ness case and iden­ti­fy­ing fund­ing for a new en­ter­tain­ment cen­tre is one of the key com­mit­ments of the in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Townsville City Deal.

The State Gov­ern­ment also re­quired con­sul­tants to sub­mit a con­cept de­sign and site plan in­clud­ing the pro­vi­sion for a fu­ture en­ter­tain­ment cen­tre as part of the sta­dium de­sign ten­der.

We need these con­cepts to be re­alised. EN­ERGY Min­is­ter Josh Fry­den­berg an­nounced on July 14 that the COAG En­ergy Coun­cil had agreed to re­forms de­signed to de­liver more af­ford­able and re­li­able elec­tric­ity and lower emis­sions.

Key to that was the Gen­er­a­tor Re­li­a­bil­ity Reg­u­la­tor which would re­quire re­new­able en­ergy providers to en­sure an ad­e­quate level of backup to guard against black­outs.

Now, while these re­forms seem mainly di­rected at the South Aus­tralian mess, there are real is­sues for North Queens­land as well.

Like SA, we do not send en­ergy into the Na­tional Grid, so the ben­e­fits we de­rive from be­ing part of the grid are less­ened.

The na­tion is now see­ing base load gen­er­a­tors reach the end of their lives and the cost of en­ergy is spik­ing. In the North, we are wit­ness­ing the ex­pan­sion of our so­lar gen­er­a­tion at un­prece­dented rates. They say en­ergy from the sun is free, but is it? This is where I be­lieve we need more in­for­ma­tion.

This ex­pan­sion of so­lar farms, mas­sive in scale, has had no ef­fect on our elec­tric­ity bills to date.

These farms are sub­sidised by the tax­payer and yet we see our bills con­tinue to rise.

Surely it is time to take a good hard look at what is hap­pen­ing.

It is our right to know what providers of the so­lar and other re­new­able en­ergy are re­ceiv­ing and how these projects will af­fect our lives, be­fore they start.

How will this af­fect the cost of our base load sup­ply and cost?

How many on­go­ing jobs will be cre­ated with the devel­op­ment of these so­lar plants?

How much tax­payer money is be­ing used here, and is that the best use for our ben­e­fit?

I have al­ways be­lieved our best en­ergy fu­ture will be pro­vided with a broad range of in­puts rang­ing from base load through to home so­lar pan­els.

The Finkel Re­view is a good doc­u­ment and we should pay at­ten­tion to the “Fu­ture Grid”.

That Fu­ture Grid speaks di­rectly to our sit­u­a­tion in North Queens­land and Townsville.

It must, how­ever, pro­vide us with ben­e­fits and eco­nomic growth from that in­vest­ment. Oth­er­wise, what is the point?

By com­plet­ing an au­dit on the re­new­able en­ergy projects un­der con­struc­tion, ap­proved, and pro­posed, and mar­ry­ing that to what it will mean to our en­ergy out­comes and power bills for work and home, we can get the best pos­si­ble re­sult.

Sim­ply get­ting an­other so­lar farm in­stalled when our power prices con­tinue to rise, and not have any long- term jobs pro­vided as an out­come would be a tragedy for the north of our state.

If we get the plan right, we have a road for­ward with elec­tric­ity prices head­ing down, more jobs and eco­nomic growth.

If we don’t get it right now, we will only have our­selves to blame. EWEN JONES, Mund­ing­burra.

HOT DE­BATE: Mas­sive so­lar farms have yet to re­duce our elec­tric­ity bills.

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