Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Illawarra steelers get set to tackle renewable energy

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 17/11/2009 Page:9

THE State Government is backing a bipartisan plan by industry, unions and University of Wollongong to gear the heavy-polluting manufacturers of the Illawarra towards renewable energy. The steel plant at Port Kembla can produce metal components for wind turbines, and be partially powered on site by recycling hot gases from its blast furnaces in a cogeneration energy plant, according to recommendations put to the Government. Wollongong would become a hub of wave power, using technology inspired by the Kiama Blowhole, under the Green jobs Illawarra Action Plan, which has attracted some early funding from the Government.

The result would be a net increase in jobs, without damaging the existing steel industry, according to the plan developed by university academics, the South Coast Labor Council, the Australian Industry Group, local governments and staff from the state environment and education departments. "This strategy provides an excellent blueprint for regions that are traditionally supported by industries like coal and steel to build long-term plans for the future," the Premier, Nathan Rees, said in a statement.

The Government will also support the purchase and development of a so-called "green street" of about eight display homes near Wollongong, which will feature examples of energy saving technology. The homes will be sold after an extended public viewing period. The South Coast Labor Council, which initiated the project, said one purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate that heavy industry and the work it sustains were compatible with reducing Australia's carbon emissions. "What we've done is broken the back of the old jobs versus environment conundrum," said Arthur Rorris, the Labor Council's secretary. "If you call do that in Wollongong' with our heavy industry steel and coal jobs, then you can do that anywhere. "Our community has come to realise we will be living in a carbon-constrained world, and our industry needs will play a role in that future."

BlueScope Steel estimated that it would have to spend up to $1 billion to fully devP[op a cogeneration plant at its Port Kembla steelworks, and shelved its plans during the economic downturn. But the proposed plant would stop the release of about 1 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year - a significant cut to a facility responsible for about 7% of the state's total emissions. The report called for the "facilitation of urgent discussions between the Commonwealth and NSW governments, the steel industry and regional stakeholders" to get the project back on track.