Plans to build a $1.5 billion transmission link from Townsville to Mt Isa in North Queensland – and unlock a major new renewables and mineral province – have been been given a $14.8 million boost by the state Labor government, as part of its Covid-19 economic recovery plan.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday that the funding would to enable the so-called Copperstring project to continue its important development activities and prepare for construction as soon as 2021.
Copperstring – or technically speaking, Copperstring 2.0, as this is the second time around for the plan after it was rejected by a previous state government – is one of 10 renewable “mega projects” listed by RenewEconomy as key contenders for critical, economy re-building post-Covid support.
Broadly speaking, the 1,100 kilometre high-voltage transmission line – said to be the nation’s largest geographical expansion of the National Electricity Market – would integrate the state’s isolated north-west power supply around Mt Isa with the North and the rest of Queensland’s network.
Former CEFC chief Oliver Yates, who is currently championing a revival of the project, told the recent Stimulus Summit that such an extension to the NEM would open up huge resources of wind and solar, and deliver cheaper energy to a range of mining projects in northern Queensland.
Helpfully, the current state government appears to have read and understood the brochure.
“The potential wider economic benefits from unlocked private investment are modelled at over 3,500 jobs in North Queensland and $79 billion economic uplift over 30 years,” said Premier Palaszczuk in a statement on Tuesday.
“I just don’t want to see the minerals, cobalt, copper, scandium and vanadium mined in Queensland.
“I want to see batteries manufactured in Queensland because that means more jobs in the regions.
“This is the type of productive infrastructure that will position Queensland for the next half a century.”
That said, the $14.8 million in state money is conditional on project milestones and subject to approvals. But all going well, it could see the project begin construction in the first half of 2021.
Copperstring 2.0 director, Joseph O’Brien, said his team was now confidently aiming for that target.
“The Queensland government has demonstrated an inspiring vision for North and North West Queensland powered by a strategic transmission investment and the country’s best renewable energy zone,” he said.
“Today is a critical step forward in creating jobs and prosperity for our region and ensuring the world has a secure supply of clean minerals needed for the modern global economy.”
Renewbles NGO Solar Citizens welcomed the news of the government funding, saying CopperString 2.0 project would ultimately serve to drive down power prices for industry and consumers.
“North Queensland has incredible solar and wind resources that can be utilised to provide cheap electricity for energy-intensive industries like minerals processing,” said Solar Citizens national director Ellen Roberts.
“Already the Sun Metals’ Townsville zinc refinery is making the most of Queensland’s natural renewable advantage to power their facility.
“By supporting more renewable investment and transmission infrastructure, we can see more onshore minerals processing and manufacturing,” Roberts said.
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