Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Energy crisis casts shade over Pilbara

11 April 2011, Page: 4

THE West Australian government is scrambling to find electricity to keep the lights on in the Pilbara because the mining giants that generate power for the region no longer have spare capacity. Horizon Power, the government company that provides electricity to regional areas, is urging Premier Colin Barnett to build immediately a $400 million power station to avert an energy crisis.

The company's executives say a decision needs to be made now to give them any chance of building the plant in time to get the extra 100 MWs needed by 2013 . They are preparing to hire diesel generators, which are expensive to operate, as an emergency back up to avoid brownouts in Karratha and Port Hedland. Treasury is opposed to a government funded power station because it will add to WA's growing debt, expected to reach $20 billion by 2014. Long term contracts with private generators would avoid the debt burden and stimulate competition, Treasury says.

But it is understood that private companies keen to provide electricity have struggled to get enough gas to fire their turbines while others found Horizon's terms untenable. WA Opposition Leader Eric Ripper said it was unbelievable that in "such a strategically important energy province" the government was grappling with an energy crisis. He attacked Mr Barnett for being obsessed with "pet projects" at the expense of core infrastructure.

"What credibility does the Pilbara Cities project have if they cannot keep the lights on in a sustainable way? If the Premier had adopted Labor's proposal for an integrated electricity grid in the Pilbara and an associated electricity market, proponents would be lining up to build stations", he said.

Horizon Power said this week that peak demand in the North West Integrated System, which covers the Pilbara, would grow from 025 MWs this year to 158 MWs in 2015-16. The company said the current level of power generating capacity in the system could meet community and industry needs for the next two years, but rapid regional growth and continued expansion of industry and resource demands would put pressure on available supplies.

In last year's annual report, the company warned that "another 100 MWs of new or replacement generation capacity.,, will need to be operational by 2013". The power squeeze has been caused by the resources boom, with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto needing all the electricity they generate to keep their own projects operating.


Alex Rello said...

West Australian government may be much tensed about this situation such that they are not getting electricity to keep the lights on in the Pilbara because the mining giants that generate power for the region no longer have spare capacity. So they must find out any solution for that.