The Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan - The Services Union By Your Side!
On Wednesday 28 September 2022, we received the announcement from the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan (‘the Plan’). The announcement is highly significant for all of our Energy members, particularly those in generation.
The Plan goes a long way to removing a lot of the uncertainty which our members in the generating sector have had with the announcement of the Job Guarantee. Our members will have various questions and concerns to work through regarding the Plan, but we will be working through it knowing that the affected employees’ interests are uppermost in the transformation of the industry.
What’s in the Plan?
The Plan proposes to tackle the problem of storage and dispatch of energy during periods of peak demand with the construction of two significant pumped hydro plants – One at Borumba and another, potentially the largest in the world near Mackay. The two pumped hydro stations will contribute 7 GW of generation, and the proposal is for them to both be online by 2035. A new government owned entity ‘Queensland Hydro’ has been announced which will be responsible for the construction of these projects.
The Plan involves staggered dates for each coal fired unit between 2026 to 2035 (date ranges are specific to each unit) whereby some units will move into a phase of being repurposed to run as synchronous condensers and/or to operate seasonally, depending on energy demand and generation available in the system. One significant aspect of the announcement regarding coal fired power stations is that there are no closure dates as such, as they are to be transformed into ‘future energy hubs’ which will use the site for other projects, including renewable power generating and storage.
There is a significant program of construction for the transmission network with the implementation of the Queensland Renewable Energy Zones (‘QREZ’), which is aimed at connecting the various renewable assets and projects with the rest of the State.
The main reason the State Government can attempt such an audacious plan is because of the fact the Queensland Government owns the key energy assets!
Queensland Energy Workers Charter
A key aspect of the Plan is that there is to be a legislated Jobs Guarantee. This Guarantee forms part of the Queensland Energy Workers Charter (‘the Charter’) which was negotiated with the Services Union, among others. The Charter provides the key overarching transition principles for employees in the industry who will be affected. The specific details and amounts for those who may elect to take a package or to move to other parts of the industry are yet to be negotiated. Members of the Services Union will be in the driving seat of these negotiations over the next several years as the Plan works through the various phases. Additionally, there will be significant assistance provided to members to ensure that you are in the best possible position to decide what you want for your future either in the power industry or elsewhere.
The various enterprise agreements in place continue to operate and will be renegotiated as they fall due having regard to what is required by the Charter. The GOCs continue to be obliged to consult in accordance with the enterprise agreement(s), even where they are giving effect to the Government’s Plan.
There is scant reference to Retail in the Plan. The only reference commits to a review of Retail in 2023-2025.
Initially, when we were briefed about the Plan, the review was proposed to be in 2025. Through our advocacy the review has been brought forward. We continue to advocate for the review to be done next year and for the current constraints to be removed to enable Ergon Retail to compete.
Private Power Stations?
While the initial announcement of the Plan focused on government owned corporations, there is scope for the likes of Gladstone Power Station and Millmerran Power Station to be included later, as the Charter allows for other parties, including private sector participants to join the Charter once established. This will likely be dependent on the contractual arrangements of the private power stations in question.
What about our members who are affected?
The Services Union will be a driving force in the significant negotiations around the implementation of the Plan and we will be there by the side of individual members affected by the Plan. This Plan is the most significant statement on the future of the power industry in Queensland ever! Our members can be reassured that we will be by their side every step of the way!
If you have feedback, questions or concerns about the Plan and what it means for you, please email Jack Donaghy, Senior Industrial Officer via [email protected] or call Services Connect on 07 3844 5300.