Ipswich's sleeping giant fires up job opportunities

The Queensland Government announced the reopening of the Stanwell gas power station Swanbank E. Jeanette Shilton of Augustine Heights is one of the new employees at the site.
The Queensland Government announced the reopening of the Stanwell gas power station Swanbank E. Jeanette Shilton of Augustine Heights is one of the new employees at the site. David Nielsen

ASIDE from the spectacular toppling of the giant smoke stacks in early 2015, not much has been happening out at the Swanbank power station in recent years.

That is all about to change very quickly.

A skeleton staff of maintenance people is about to be bolstered to 24, as State Government owned corporation Stanwell prepares to flick the switch back on at the 385-megawatt gas-fired power station on Ipswich's eastern outskirts.

Under the previous state government, Stanwell Coroporation mothballed the Swanbank E, in October 2014, citing "subdued market conditions and increasing gas prices", which meant that Stanwell could earn more revenue from selling Queensland gas than using it in electricity generation.

With concerns over the nation's ability to cope with peak summer and winter demand for electricity, and household power bills growing out of control, the State Government has moved quickly to get the sleeping giant ready to fire again.

A deal with Shell Australia to supply gas from the Darling Downs area has been secured, and work is under way to ensure the station is ready for commissioning testing in November, with a view to supplying power to the nation on January 1, 2018.

 

Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt announces the reopening of the gas-fired power station, Swanbank E.
Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt announces the reopening of the gas-fired power station, Swanbank E. David Nielsen

Treasurer and Acting Energy Minister Curtis Pitt said the $1.16 billion Powering Queensland Plan, which includes returning Swanbank E to service, would help ensure security of supply, drive down electricity costs and create jobs.

"What this will do is reduce volatility in the market place," Mr Pitt said.

"Queensland is in a very good place when it comes to overall electricity generation and supply, and that is not the case in the southern states. Queensland will be the power house when it comes to energy generation, and we want to make sure we are putting Queenslanders first, but also act in the national interest."

Queensland already supplies a large amount of power to southern states.

Stanwell Chairman Ralph Craven said Swanbank E would rarely operate at its full 385-megawatt capacity, especially at non-peak times.

"It will run at a fairly constant output during the first quarter of the year, but it will be well below the maximum, so that there is capacity to ramp it up if needed,' Dr Craven said.

"As demand drops off in autumn, that's when we take it down a little."

Nine employees ensured the plant remained in serviceable condition during the three-year hiatus.

The cost to the tax-payer of bringing the plant back online was not disclosed when media pushed Mr Pitt for a dollar figure yesterday.

Also, Mr Pitt was unable to provide any sort of guarantee that the recommissioning of the plant would have any meaningful effect on household electricity bills, only promising that the plant's operation would put "downward pressure" on family bills.

"Tim Nicholls and the LNP were responsible for 43 per cent electricity price increases during their term and in stark contrast, the Palaszczuk Government has stabilised those out of control price rises and kept average household price increases to an average of just 1.9 per cent per year during our term," he said.

"This includes using our public ownership to invest $770 million to shield Queenslanders from the price rises being felt across the country due to a broken National Electricity Market which means Queensland has the lowest electricity price increase this year of any mainland state."

The recruitment drive for the 16 new positions at the plant is also progressing.

Electricians, technicians and planners will be needed.

One of the first Ipswich people to latch onto one of the new positions is Augustine Heights mum Jeanette Shilton, who is about to start as a full-time management support officer.

"This is a big thing for Ipswich to be supplying power again," Mrs Shilton said.

"It represented a great opportunity for me, because it's closer to home than my last job and gives me the opportunity to use my skills and develop further."



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