Minister puts cheaper power prices for BSL on the agenda
ACTION is needed to bring down power prices to ensure long-term futures for energy-intensive businesses like Boyne Smelters, according to Energy Minister Angus Taylor.
In response to recent concerns by Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques about energy prices in Australia, Mr Taylor visited Boyne Smelters Limited yesterday to reinforce his message that the government was determined to reduce power prices.
Flanked by staunch coal and more recently nuclear supporter Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd, Mr Taylor said the government's $10-million program to underwrite new electricity projects would help the smelters and other energy-hungry businesses in the Gladstone Region.
Mr Taylor and Mr O'Dowd yesterday met with management at BSL to discuss the government's approach to bringing down power prices.
"Gladstone is the energy capital of Australia," Mr Taylor said.
"It's a hub for electricity, gas and downstream industries that rely on affordable and reliable energy and nowhere is that more true than at the Boyne Smelters.
"We have to make sure we have the affordable, reliable regency for this region to ensure Boyne Smelters can be here, successful and prospering and producing as much as possible for as many years.
"That's the focus ... and if you look around the nameplates (at BSL) it's all about beyond 2030."
A Rio Tinto spokesperson told The Observer yesterday it welcomed the visit from Mr Taylor and Mr O'Dowd to discuss concerns about power prices and the impact they have on the 1000-strong workforce.
"We will continue to work constructively with all parties to find a solution... that may include renewable energy in conjunction with coal-fired generation to provide the internationally competitive firm block of power needed," they said.
Through the Underwriting New Generations Investment program, the government aims to reduce wholesale energy prices by 25 per cent by the end of 2021.
Mr Taylor said the government was examining projects in North and Central Queensland through the Underwriting New Generation Investments program, including a proposed HELE coal project at Collinsville.
Over two years the program will develop a detailed plan and identify viable locations for firm generation, including coal, gas, pumped hydro and biomass opportunities.
Mr O'Dowd pointed to production cuts at the smelters in 2017 and said if action was not taken, there was the potential for more cuts in the future.
It follows Mr Jacques's comments earlier this month that Rio Tinto needed lower energy prices for its Australian aluminium business to "remain competitive".
"It's obvious the Federal Government, the state and Rio Tinto needs to sit down to talk about these issues," Mr O'Dowd said.