North Queensland Bio-Energy Corporation has hailed a State Government funding commitment as “a breakthrough” for its planned $640 million sugar-based renewable energy project at Ingham.
NQBE chairman Robert Carey said the $1.17 million funding stemmed from the Queensland Government’s Bio-futures Industry Development Fund.
“It is the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle for the project in that it will allow for the completion of due diligence, which will enable the project to move to financial closure,” Mr Carey said.
“Completion of the due diligence will enable construction to start early next year, immediately after the 2018 wet season.”
The NQBE proposal would use waste from sugar production (bagasse) to generate enough electricity to power about 28,000 homes, in addition to producing 430,000 tonnes of raw sugar and up to 60 million litres of fuel-grade ethanol per annum.
It is expected to create 450 jobs during construction and more than 250 permanent positions when operational.
Hinchinbrook Shire Mayor Ramon Jayo described the Bio-futures Industry Development Fund (BIDF) support as “a shot in the arm for the Shire”.
“Local businesses have been doing it tough and we continue to see many of our young people having to leave town to get a job,” he said.
“The district has one of the worst ageing population problems in Australia and unless we can provide jobs for our young people the town of Ingham will slowly die.”
Cr Jayo said that in addition to employment, the project would generate $96 million in increased annual economic output.
“I have been saying that this district can no longer rely on crystal sugar for its survival. We must be able to use the cane we grow for value adding opportunities,” he said.
Mr Carey said NQBE shareholders, all of whom were Herbert River district cane farmers, had contributed more than $11 million to get the project to the shovel-ready stage and the show of State Government support would be well received.
Mr Carey said the NQBE project had received full development approval as a Significant Project in 2013 under the State Government’s call-in powers.
“NQBE has 235 farmers committed to the project and, given the recent treatment by Wilmar in the Cane Supply Agreement negotiations, we expect more will want to join,” he said.
“I know some local farmers have been sitting on the fence, waiting for some certainty before coming on board, so this fantastic show of support from the State Government should remove those doubts about the future of the project.”