By HARRY CLARKE
QUEENSLAND’S most senior energy bureaucrat has given new insight into the scope and potential of the Toowoomba and Surat Basin region as a multi-faceted electricity powerhouse with “enormous” future domestic and international export opportunities.
Paul Martyn (pictured) is the director general of the Department of Energy and Public Works and former CEO of the government’s global business agency, Trade and Investment Queensland.
Speaking at a networking event at Parliament House hosted by Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE), Mr Martyn said dramatic change in global energy markets posed “a real threat to this country” but also opened key opportunities for the region’s energy sector.
While highlighting wind, solar and hydrogen power as the path to capitalising on renewable energy demand, Toowoomba North MP Trevor Watts listed aerospace development, healthcare and the Inland Rail project as opportunities to drive economic prosperity.
“The International Energy Agency predicts that international trade of energy will reduce by two thirds, but equally I think it’s an incredible opportunity for us,” Mr Martyn said.
“When we think about some of the global market trends around the ‘greening’ of supply chains – that the people who buy what we produce are going to want to know where the energy came from – this whole picture becomes even more important.
“We’ve gone from 7 percent of our energy produced by renewables to 20 percent and the trajectory is going up. That’s being driven by $10 billion worth of investment.”
Mr Martyn said there were currently 35 large scale renewable projects generating 2,700MW of power, while the department has calculated using national data that another 7,000MW could be developed in the region.
“The importance of battery energy cannot be underestimated,” Mr Martyn said.
“We all know that sometimes the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. Batteries enable us to store renewable energy and use it at other times when we need it.
“Often the wind blows at night so it compliments solar during that day, and that mix in your region is very powerful.”
The region’s foray into renewable hydrogen is tipped to be another potential game changer for the economy.
Plans are afoot to test hydrogen being developed at Kogan Creek Power Station in the trucking and logistics industry.
The Darling Downs will be a key corridor for the $14 billion, 1,700km Inland Rail project being built to connect Brisbane to Melbourne, promising to complete the “missing link” in our national freight network.
It was announced in December that developer Pacific National had reached an agreement with the Wagner Corporation to build a major freight terminal the Wagners’ Wellcamp Business Park at Wellcamp.
The terminal is expected to occupy some 23 hectares and support up to 400 skilled jobs once operational, including train drivers, terminal staff and warehousing staff.
Inland Rail is expected to the completed by 2026 but reports suggest that ongoing disputes with landholders over the railway route could cause both the construction timeline and cost to blow out.
Toowoomba North MP Trevor Watts also warned at the TSBE enterprise networking event that strained housing and accommodation in the wider region would need to be bolstered to accommodate availability the influx of workers.
“It will put some pressure on our accommodation and our ability to host that workforce, but the logistics and the opportunities of the development of that inland port for Toowoomba’s long term employment is going to be absolutely fantastic,” Mr Watts said.
Mr Watts said the healthcare industry in Toowoomba was “our biggest employer”, making up 13 percent of the city’s workforce, and the proposed redevelopment of the Toowoomba Hospital would see that percentage increase.
The new hospital is planned to be built over 75 hectares at the site of the exisiting Bailey Henderson Hospital. Toowoomba’s current main public hospital has been located on Pechey Street since the late 1800s.
Darling Downs Health provided the Queensland Government with a business case in late 2020 to inform its decision on whether to invest in the project, which has a price tag of $1.8 billion.
In a statement Darling Downs Health has said its intention would be to “move as many services as possible away from the (Toowoomba Hospital) to open up clinical spaces until a new hospital is funded.”
The proposal for the new hospital includes 402 overnight inpatient beds, compared to the 317 currently available at the Toowoomba Hospital.
“It’s a facility that’s desperately needed,” Mr Watts said.
“A lot of people are currently using patient travel subsidy to travel to Brisbane to see specialists and have procedures.”
DARLING DOWNS AEROSPACE
As the Caller revealed exclusively in December, the Wagner Corporation has set out a bold vision to revolutionise Darling Down industry with the development of a world class aerospace industry centred at the company’s Wellcamp Airport outside Toowoomba.
Robitic manufacturing plants, research and development laboratories and the construction of cutting edge military aircraft will be spearheaded by Boeing, which has chosen Wellcamp as the location to build its state-of-the-art “Loyal Wingman” Aircraft Teaming System.
The unmanned aircraft will be the first military combat aircraft designed, developed and manufactured outside the US in half a century, and are planned to begin flying off the Wellcamp runway in 2025.
Expected to create 300 jobs during construction and generate $1 billion for the Queensland economy over ten years, the Boeing project will involve building, patenting and testing the Aircraft Teaming System, before supplying it in numbers to the Royal Australian Airforce and allied airforces around the globe.
Wagner Corporation director Dennis Wagner said the company’s vision was for Wellcamp Airport to play host to a world-leading hub for defence and aerospace research, innovation, development and manufacturing.
“We have commenced meaningful discussions with an additional 22 potential organisations interested in establishing a base here in Toowoomba,” Mr Wagner said.
“The companies include advanced manufacturers, suppliers to the aviation and defence industries, research and education organisations, aviation maintenance and freight operations.”