Roadmap unveiled to help Gladstone transform from fossil fuel capital to green energy superpower

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An ambitious plan to help guide a central Queensland region’s transition from fossil fuels to green hydrogen and renewable energy superpower has been unveiled.

The traditional industrial town of Gladstone – home to alumina smelters, LNG exports and a coal-fired power plant – is also home to dozens of green hydrogen investments and other renewable energy projects.

About two years ago, Gladstone Regional Council (GRC) began working with The Next Economy research group and the community to draft a 10-year economic transition roadmap.

What is the roadmap?

The roadmap’s introductory pages describe it as a blueprint “to inform the council on what is needed to help the region adapt successfully to a changing energy sector over the next decade. , alongside other levels of government and industry”.

The plan looked at six key areas where the council could play a role, including energy, hydrogen, economic diversification, workforce development, community benefits and environmental protection. environment.

Most of the recommendations focused on the council’s advocacy role, as well as its channels between industry, community and other levels of government.

“Advocacy is going to be the biggest part for us, but it’s also about making sure the voices of our community are heard,” said GRC Mayor Matt Burnett.

RCMP Mayor Matt Burnett says the transition will impact all sectors of the community.(ABC Capricorn: Tobi Loftus)

He said while this included promoting new sustainable investments, it also included lobbying for better services so that new industries could attract workers and the community as a whole benefited.

“It’s housing, it’s health, it’s aged care, childcare…these are very important,” Cr Burnett said.

He said there were already problems in these spaces, including the fact that women could not give birth in the city hospital due to a lack of services, which the council advocated.

“These things need to be dealt with,” Cr Burnett said.

The roadmap also called on the board to set internal emissions reduction targets.

Why was the plan necessary?

In the early to mid-2010s, the construction of three LNG export plants on Curtis Island created 14,000 new jobs in the area, leading to skyrocketing rents and strained services.

Many of these jobs all but disappeared a few years later when construction of the factories was completed.

Cr Burnett said the council knew what was going to ‘happen in our community’ but was not listened to by state and federal governments during the LNG ‘benefits’.

“So we could have sat back and just waited and let other levels of government determine our future, let industry determine if they were going to invest, but we didn’t want to wait,” he said.

Will more tips follow?

Next Economy chief executive and lead author of the roadmap, Amanda Cahill, said she had been inundated with requests for advice across Australia for similar work.

a woman smiles in front of trees
The Economic Transition Roadmap was developed by Dr. Amanda Cahill of The Next Economy.(ABC Capricorn: Tobi Loftus)

She said places like Newcastle, the Latrobe Valley, Geelong and Spencer’s Gulf faced similar challenges to Gladstone.

“You know, Australia has turned a corner in the last six months and everyone is in the net zero race,” Dr Cahill said.

“We need to make sure that as this rate of change accelerates, we really consider the impact on communities and the environment.

“We need to get to net zero as quickly as possible for climate reasons, but we need to make sure we do it in a way that no one is left behind.”

How did the community react?

Rob Williamson is the Operations Manager of Alpha HPA, a new high purity alumina processing facility at Gladstone powered by renewable energy.

A man wearing a helmet stands in a factory
According to Alpha HPA’s Rob Williamson, the plan will help the industry work more closely with the council.(ABC Capricorn: Tobi Loftus)

“[The roadmap] gives us the opportunity to work more closely [with the council] in supporting renewable energy for the region,” he said.

“Our customers and future customers will want to see how we are decarbonizing and minimizing our carbon emissions.

“The advice introducing a way to get there, nice and easy, is music to my ears.”

Local Goreng Goreng elder Richard Johnson said he participated in community consultations while drafting the roadmap.

He said it was important for the council to listen to the voices of all First Nations people in the area, not just the primary title holders, which the plan recommended.

“There are a number of First Nations groups here in Gladstone,” Mr Johnson said.

“They also have the right to have their say.”

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