Qld wind farm, 250 jobs fall victim to ‘war on renewables’

 

A $370 million green energy hub slated to create 250 jobs in regional Queensland has had its bid for funding denied by Northern Australian Minister Keith Pitt exercising rarely used veto powers, saying he was "unconvinced" it would lower energy prices.

The move has sparked accusations the project fell victim to "an ideological war on renewables".

The proposal from French-firm Neoen had received a loan approval for the Kaban Green Energy Hub, to be based 80km west of Cairns, from the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility in December.

Northern Australia Minister Keith Pitt used veto powers to stop a concessional loan going to a proposed wind farm in north Queensland. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Northern Australia Minister Keith Pitt used veto powers to stop a concessional loan going to a proposed wind farm in north Queensland. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

It claimed the wind farm could deliver power price savings of $461 million over 30 years.

But Mr Pitt used the extraordinary ministerial power to block the loan in March.

In a leaked letter obtained by The Courier-Mail, Mr Pitt told the head of the NAIF it was "inconsistent" with the aims of the Federal Government, saying it was policy to support dispatchable power, like gas, hydro and coal, and to back projects that increase affordability of power.

"I am not convinced that the project will result in lower energy prices," Mr Pitt wrote.

He did not provide information on what brought him to that position, while the Federal Government has repeatedly stated it is "technology neutral".

Opposition spokesman for Climate and Energy Chris Bowen there were job opportunities in responding to climate change, but "only if (they're) taken".

"North Queensland should be getting 250 new energy jobs and cheaper power bills, but they've been hung out to dry," he said.

The NAIF has previously funded green energy projects, including Genex Kidston and Alinta Energy's solar-gas hybrid project.

Opposition climate change and energy spokesman Chris Bowen says the loan veto was hanging north Queensland “out to dry”. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard
Opposition climate change and energy spokesman Chris Bowen says the loan veto was hanging north Queensland “out to dry”. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

Mr Pitt said his statement of reasons for the decision would be tabled in the parliament, in accordance with the requirements.

"The company is free to put its case to other suppliers of finance, including the Queensland Government," he said.

Opposition Northern Australia spokesman Murray Watt said the NAIF had been slow to get money to projects.

"Now that it finds a project to fund, the Minister secretly knocks it off," he said.

"It's tragic to see Queensland jobs and power prices sacrificed by the LNP, because of their ideological war on renewables."

NEOEN has previously received government grants from ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance of more than $200 million for projects like the Victorian Big Battery and South Australia's Hornsdale Power Reserve.

Neoen Australia's managing director Louis de Sambucy said he was disappointed to learn of the NAIF's decision, but that the company remained committed to the project.

"Our focus remains on delivering Kaban. We are now actively exploring all options and are hopeful of announcing a positive pathway forward in upcoming days," he said.

 

Originally published as Qld wind farm, 250 jobs fall victim to 'war on renewables'



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