Power plant or just a plain train wreck, calls for de Brenni ‘s head get louder

A damning report on a catastrophic power plant explosion has sparked calls for the sacking of a Queensland minister.

Jun 26, 2024, updated Jun 27, 2024
Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni

Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni

But Premier Steven Miles said a number of factors at the plant’s state-owned operator were to blame, vowing to fix them and prevent a repeat.

Almost half a million customers were left without power in 2021 by the explosion in the C4 unit of Callide Power Station in central Queensland, after a planned upgrade left the plant without a battery source.

The plant’s operator CS Energy failed to implement safety measures to mitigate risks at the site, says a draft report by forensic engineer Sean Brady released on Tuesday.

Mr Miles said his government was taking responsibility by appointing new advisers to the CS Energy board and reviewing of publicly owned energy businesses.

“There’s a lot in (the report) for us to work on,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“We’re taking the responsibility to address it. We’re taking the responsibility to respond.”

Mr Miles said “cultural issues” at CS Energy were among the main contributing factors to the power plant’s failure, and would be addressed through his government’s plan.

He also acknowledged that cost-cutting measures and management changes were other factors.

But Mr Miles claimed the government had consistently agreed to fund maintenance measures at CS Energy in the past decade.

“We have never declined our request from CS Energy to provide additional maintenance funding,” he said.

“We delivered massive increases … I think they reached record levels in 2019.”

Energy Minister Mick de Brenni came under fire following the report’s release, with the opposition calling for him to stand down.

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“The Brady Report exposes Labor’s lies and points the finger directly at the government,” shadow energy minister Deb Frecklington said on Wednesday.

Mr Miles defended his colleague, saying Mr de Brenni was the best person to help turn Callide’s performance around.

“We have a clear plan for addressing the concerns raised in (the report) and Mick is the best minister placed to implement those,” he said.

Mr Miles said the review would likely come back with significant changes, which his government would consider to ensure CS Energy was fit for the future.

The incident at Callide three years ago was avoidable if sufficient safety measures were implemented, the draft report found.

It said while engineers were connecting a new battery system, there was a loss of power in the unit and no back-up in place following damage from an earlier incident.

It led to the turbine motor continuing to spin and draw power before the blast.

CS Energy’s failure to comprehensively understand the issues with its systems led to it being unable to anticipate or prevent the incident, Dr Brady found.

“The failure to understand and assess risk, and to not effectively apply sound management of change processes in relation to the engineering factors that led to the catastrophic failure, suggests these were not isolated incidents, but rather a symptom of an organisation’s failure to value and implement effective process safety practices,” the report said.

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