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    Media Statements

    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    The Honourable Anna Bligh
    Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure and Planning
    The Honourable Paul Lucas



    The Honourable Anna Bligh

    Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure and Planning
    The Honourable Paul Lucas

    Sunday, March 16, 2008


    In what could become Queensland’s largest single renewable energy deal, Premier Anna Bligh has challenged Australia’s green energy industry to completely offset carbon emissions from the $1.2 billion Gold Coast desalination plant.

    Ms Bligh said wanted to see the drought-proofing plant powered by 100 percent carbon neutral energy and the Government would seek expressions of interest in coming weeks.

    “Once complete, the Gold Coast desalination plant will produce up to 125 mega litres of water every day – which is enough water for close to 900,000 people,” Ms Bligh said.

    “It will play an essential role in drought-proofing the south-east corner.

    “But if the current drought has taught us anything, it’s the unpredictable nature of climate change and the major affects it can have.

    “During the first meeting of my Council on Climate Change earlier this month, Dr Tim Flannery said Queensland had the most to lose and the most to gain from climate change.

    “As the highest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, we have the opportunity to make the most difference – and the responsibility to do so.

    “And to make that difference, we have to think outside the square and go where we haven’t before.

    “So today, I put a challenge to the green energy industry to put forward viable ‘green’ options to power the desalination plant.

    “The plant is expected to use up to 200,000 mega watt hours of power each year - the equivalent household-use of a town the size of Mt Isa.

    “I want industry to come to us with their best ideas – it could be solar or wind generated power for example, it could be carbon off-setting, or it could be a combination of these.

    “But regardless of the method, this is an opportunity for industry to generate a huge amount of renewable energy in a commercially viable way, which will ensure this drought-proofing project does not come at a high carbon cost to Queensland.”

    Ms Bligh said the Government had considered the cost-benefit analysis carefully.

    “Based on current pricing, we expect that powering the plant with green energy will mean, at worst, a $1-2 increase in water bills per household per year.

    “This is a very small cost for such a huge benefit to the environment.

    “Making the plant carbon neutral will save 207,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year – which is equivalent to emissions from 46,000 cars.

    “We have a responsibility to our future generations to do a better job at tackling climate change, and reducing our emissions plays a vital role in this fight,” she said.

    Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure Paul Lucas said powering the Gold Coast Desalination Plant with renewable energy would also make it eligible for significant Federal funds.

    “If we can make the project a 100 percent carbon neutral, the Tugun plant will be eligible for up to $100 million in capital funding from the Federal Government’s $1 billion National Urban Water and Desalination Plan,” Mr Lucas said.

    “This Federal Government grants system only funds projects that are powered completely from renewable sources or fully offsetting the carbon impact of their operations.”

    The carbon off-set announcement coincided with a visit to the desalination construction site, marking the completion of the excavation of the inlet and outlet tunnels.

    “This is a significant milestone in the construction of the first large scale water desalination plant on Australia’s eastern seaboard,” Ms Bligh said.

    “4.2 kilometres of tunnels have been dug in just over eight months – all on time and on budget – which is an exceptional achievement.

    “The two tunnel boring machines have excavated enough earth to fill 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

    “The project is now about two thirds complete, continuing the extraordinary progress on construction of the $9 billion South East Queensland Water Grid,” she said.

    Mr Lucas applauded the project’s tunnelling team, which comprises of specialists from 10 countries.

    “These workers certainly aren’t faint hearted, they’ve been 65 metres down under the ocean and sand, chipping away with hand held tools and a mini driller at the end of the tunnel.

    “They’re the reason this project is on schedule to produce its first water in November this year, with full production by January 2009.

    “The next critical phase of the operation will be construction of the underwater marine water inlet and salt water diffuser systems on the seabed when the project’s ocean barge returns to Tugun in April for about six months.”

    “Once this work is finished, no infrastructure will be visible from the ocean surface,” he said.

    Media contact: 3224 4500 (Premier’s office) or 3224 8750 (Deputy Premier’s office)