MJ on Sat'day: 'A sense of optimism is returning to our sector'
GLADSTONE is a town that knows a thing or two about the resources sector.
It's seen the highs of new projects and new industries.
But it's also worked through the challenges that come with oscillating commodity prices and the winding down of major construction projects.
This week we saw Gladstone's industry leaders at the Gladstone Engineering Alliance's Major Industry Conference.
It was clear from the conference that a sense of optimism is returning to our mighty sector in Gladstone
This mood was reflected throughout the region and the speakers at the GEA meeting on Friday.
And that's good news for Central Queensland and the entire state.
When the resources sector does well, Queensland does well and hopefully Gladstone can get some of the action.
Queensland-wide, the resources industry accounts for $1 in every $5, and it creates one in every seven jobs.
In Gladstone, the total economic contribution of the resources sector last year was about $2.2billion.
The sector does all of this while using just 0.1% of Queensland's land mass.
Clearly, we get great bang for our buck from the resources sector.
And while the resources sector drives the economy, it's also driving much of the political debate on the talk about power because at the end of the day we need affordable, reliable power to keep our local industries in business
Gladstone has a strong manufacturing and industrial base, including two alumina refineries and an aluminium smelter.
If we want to see more people employed in industries like these, we need affordable and reliable energy to keep our businesses competitive.
We can't expect to create new investments and jobs if we don't have the dispatchable power that can be delivered where it needs to be, when it's needed, and at a price that is affordable.
It's foolish not to make full use of our wide range of energy options - that means coal, gas, renewables, hydro and storage.
But we have to factor in the full costs of all our energy options, and we need to put a value on storage and dispatchability.
If we want to reclaim our advantage of low-cost and plentiful energy, we have to leave the ideological hang-ups behind and get serious about all our energy options to find the best mix of affordability and reliability.
We can do this by getting the latest coal-fired power generation built in Gladstone and another one in Townsville, yet no one has the will to do this.
Do we need to form the commence party to get this power turned on?
It just makes sense because across the world there is significant investment in the latest coal-fired power generation in countries such as Japan, Germany, China and India - some of which are using Queensland coal.
More than 1000 of these high-efficiency low-emissions units are currently delivering reliable and affordable electricity with more than 1200 planned, or under construction.
Queensland has substantial reserves of high-quality, lower-emission coal and we should take advantage of this resource to increase our international competitiveness.
Gladstone is home to Queensland's largest coal-fired powerplant but more base-load supply is needed in the National Electricity Market grid if we are to integrate more renewable generation, and to prevent wholesale electricity spikes on days of high demand.
We are lucky in this region to have a supportive community that values our resources sector for the jobs and investments that it actually creates.
I know from speaking with the resources companies that the skilled workforce available in Central Queensland is one of the most important assets we have.
The strength of the resources sector is underpinned by specialist skills and businesses like those in Gladstone.
It's this network of large companies and smaller companies, big miners and supporting specialists that allows our resources industry to thrive.
One of the things that strikes me most about talking to the resources community in Gladstone is that there are people who have built their entire careers in the sector.
And we must see that continue, equipping the next generation with the skills they can use for well-paid, long-term regional jobs.
Students in the Gladstone region are on track to make the most of those opportunities, through the strong partnership with the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy - the QMEA.
It was great to see the CEO of the Queensland Resources Council Ian Macfarlane take a tour of one of our schools, Chanel College, guided by the school's young leaders, including Abi Meehan, who this year won the Outstanding QMEA Student Award at the Women in Mining and Resources Queensland Breakfast in Brisbane.
It's through skills and training that we'll help ensure the Queensland resources sector stays strong - and keeps its place at the heart of Gladstone and the heart of the Queensland economy.
You can hear Michael J Bailey on Your Station 4CC