CONSTRUCTION of North Queensland Bio-Energy Corporation’s (NQBE) $600 million sugar-based renewable energy Project could start as early as October this year, following an overwhelming show of support by 200 shareholders at the company’s Annual General Meeting held in Ingham.

NQBE Chairman, Robert Carey, said shareholders who attended the meeting voted in favour of contributing the necessary funds to complete the final Due Diligence stage that is necessary to enable Financial Closure to be achieved by the end of the company’s September 2017 target date.

“Once financial closure is achieved, it paves the way for early stage earthworks to commence immediately and be well advanced ahead of the 2018 wet season,” Mr Carey said.

“NQBE is now in a position where we can progress the Due Diligence and move closer to realising the dream of building Australia’s first multi-functional sugar-based renewable energy facility.”

Mr Carey told shareholders that the project would be funded by way of a combination of equity investors, an Australian and International banking syndicate, and the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

“The Project meets the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund guidelines and discussions on NQBE’s eligibility for assistance have been held, in the event that ‘gap’ funding is required.”

At the meeting a detailed explanation was provided on how the new Infrastructure Model works and how growers would obtain 100% ownership of the facility at the end of the payback period. Growers would gain equity on an annual basis as they supplied cane to the facility and Mr Carey said that this would provide growers with the necessary incentive to be more productive and grow more cane.

He said proceeds from the sale of electricity would be used to assist in the payment of debt and equity and farmers would receive additional benefits from increased revenue from the sale of ethanol and other by-products.

A Public Information Session, held immediately following the AGM, was attended by more than 120 interested parties from local businesses and the broader cane farming community.

“The NQBE project has the potential to spark new life into the local economy but, most importantly, it will provide hundreds of badly needed jobs that will enable our young people to stay in the district rather than move away to find employment,” Mr Carey said.

The NQBE project will use sugar cane bagasse, the waste product from the production of raw sugar crystal, to generate more than 550,000 megawatts of clean, green and renewable power for export per annum (sufficient to power approximately 28,000 homes). The facility will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is considered a base load power generation Facility.

The Facility is designed along similar lines to new-age multi-functional sugar mills that currently operate successfully throughout the sugar growing countries of the world and will also have capacity to produce 430,000 tonnes of raw sugar annually and have an ethanol distillery capacity of 200,000 litres per day (60ML per annum).

The Project will provide 400-450 jobs during construction and more than 250 new permanent positions in the facility and 135 FTE jobs in transport and logistics, once fully operational.