March 29, 2023
The Queensland District brought the community together in Biloela to discuss the future of energy in Queensland. The forum coincided with the release of the District’s new discussion paper on carbon capture and storage opportunities in Queensland.
Biloela is a small Central Queensland community already at the front-line of the energy transition in Australia. The town is home to Callide Power Station and the open-cut Callide Mine, which supplies around 6 million tonnes of coal to the power station each year (in addition to supplying coal to alumina refineries and export customers in Asia). Together, they employ several hundreds of workers and underpin the local economy.
Callide B Power Station was slated to close in 2028 even before the Queensland Government announced its plans to phase out publicly-owned coal power by 2035. MEU representatives, alongside representatives from other unions, have been participating in discussions with power station-owner CS Energy through the Callide Futures Group forum. However, the future of Biloela remains uncertain, with little sign of an industry that could provide a similar number and quality of jobs.
The MEU Community Energy Forum allowed locals to discuss their concerns for the future and how to face the challenges ahead. Attendees also gained an insight into the transition experience of their West Australian counterparts in Collie, with a video message from Bill Johnston, the WA Minister for Energy, and a contribution from MEU WA Secretary Greg Busson. As many regions across Australia face closures, sharing knowledge on how to support communities and workers through upheaval will be essential. Even more important will be the establishment of a National Energy Transition Authority that can coordinate and provide much needed funding and industry planning to transitioning regions.
The Forum was well attended, with locals sharing their concerns about maintaining energy security and protecting jobs in the years ahead. Safety is also a big concern, with Callide Power Station recording several close-call incidents recently, including the collapse of part of the cooling tower a few months ago. Hopefully, the Forum will be just the beginning of community consultation and engagement on these important challenges.