Qld govt accused of electricity conflict

·2-min read

A Queensland government-backed gas and solar project could lock in high electricity prices for the state's northwest, Traeger MP Robbie Katter warns.

The $600 million, 50-megawatt North West Queensland Hybrid Power Project (NWQHPP) is set to be built near Mount Isa by Vast Solar and government-owned Stanwell Corporation.

The Katter's Australian Party leader says the project is in direct competition with the proposed $1.5 billion CopperString 2.0, a high-voltage tranmission line connecting the region to the national grid at Townsville.

Mr Katter warns the hybrid project can only be economically viable if the region remains disconnected from national energy market.

That way Vast and Stanwell can force customers into expensive contracts, he says.

"Vast Solar's proponents have indicated their project would not be feasible if CopperString went ahead, as they would not be able to lock mining companies into long-term contracts at higher prices than the NEM," Mr Katter said.

Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said the government supported the hybrid project and CopperString.

He said there was even potential for Vast to use the CopperString to send hybrid power back to the National Energy Market.

"We'll work with all of the proponents in the region - be they in transmission or in generation to achieve an optimal outcome that secures jobs for Queenslanders, brings more manufacturing to Queensland and secures the stability of our resources industry," he told parliament on Wednesday.

Mr Katter said Mr de Brenni either didn't realise the projects were in competition or he was avoiding admitting it.

He said the energy minister had repeatedly failed to address Vast's public comments about its viability.

"How will the government ensure it keeps its commitment to delivering CopperString, while Vast solar says both projects cannot happen?" Mr Katter said.

"CopperString is shared, regulated infrastructure that can be owned by the government and will level the playing field for existing and future mining and generation projects."

Mr Katter said northwest Queensland had already missed the chance to being connected to the grid in 2001.

At the time Xstrata signed a deal with APA's Diamantina Gas Power Station at Mount Isa, rather than backing CopperString.

He said unless the state government backs CopperString history could repeat.

He said if Glencore, which now owns Mount Isa Mines, signs a power supply deal with the Vast project, CopperString will be shelved again.

"There is a real risk that the Palaszczuk government will do the same thing and allow the oligopoly of Glencore, APA and Stanwell to secure prime deals for themselves and leave the rest of the region in the dark," Mr Katter said.

"I will be relentless in ensuring our Energy Minister and Resources Minister, Scott Stewart, who as a North Queenslander should be as concerned about this as I am, to deliver on the government's commitment to connect the NWMP to the NEM."