25/03/2009 - 22:00

Coal prominent in state’s future energy supply mix

25/03/2009 - 22:00

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ALMOST $3 billion dollars worth of electricity generation projects are planned for Western Australia, with almost one-third of the investment going towards renewable energy projects.

Coal prominent in state’s future energy supply mix

ALMOST $3 billion dollars worth of electricity generation projects are planned for Western Australia, with almost one-third of the investment going towards renewable energy projects.

Coal generation remains a key component of the state's energy mix, despite the planned introduction of an emissions trading scheme.

Griffin Energy's Bluewaters 1 coal power plant in Collie is currently being commissioned, with Bluewaters 2 about six months away from being commissioned.

Griffin is also progressing with plans for Bluewaters 3 and 4, which are currently awaiting government approvals. The company says it is hoping to commission these units in late 2012.

The Coolimba Power station project, part owned by South Perth-based Aviva Corporation, is the state's other major new coal project.

Aviva has not yet commenced construction of the 400MW plant near Eneabba but is aiming for a 2012 delivery date.

The plant will be built with capability of capturing carbon dioxide emissions, which will then be compressed, injected and stored within deep underground storage reservoirs.

Further coal-fired electricity could be brought into the system if government-owned Verve Energy is successful in its plans to restart the retired Muja A and B power stations in Collie.

Under a $100 million plan, Verve would bring both power stations back online following a retrofit to reduce emissions by 2011, adding 240MW of supply into the electricity system.

The driver behind the plan, according to Verve, is to help increase the diversity of WA's energy supply and make it less susceptible to a repeat of a crisis similar to that caused by last year's Varanus Island explosion.

Gas still remains the preferred fuel for new conventional power stations, despite concerns over high gas prices and difficulty in securing long-term supplies.

ERM Power commissioned its NewGen Kwinana 320MW combined-cycle, gas-fired power station in October 2008, while its NewGen Neerabup 320MW open-cycle, gas-fired power station is scheduled for completion later this year.

Enneaba Gas is continuing planning for the proposed construction of its 168MW Centauri 1 gas power station near Dongara.

With all necessary regulatory approvals in place for development, the company is awaiting confirmation of definite contracts for electricity supply with customers in the Mid West.

West Perth-based Western Energy has been given the green light by the Economic Regulation Authority to operate a 120MW power station at Kwinana, which will supply electricity to the South West Interconnected System.

The $120 million Kwinana combined cycle gas power plant is scheduled for completion by June 2010.

Meanwhile, Griffin Energy has shelved a planned $400 million gas-fired power plant project near Neerabup due to concerns regarding gas supply, with the company currently reviewing the project.

Several renewable energy projects are also being planned for WA, with interest in renewables expected to increase following the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target in 2010.

Last week, the WA Biomass consortium received environmental approval for its 40MW biomass plant in Manjimup.

In August 2007, WA Biomass was awarded the Synergy supply contract following a year-long tender process

The plant will burn plantation timber waste to generate electricity and, unlike other renewable energy sources like wind power, is able to provide base-load power.

As a requirement of the tender, the plant needs to be ready to start supplying electricity by the end of 2009.

WA's most prevalent renewable energy source, wind power, is also being expanded with two major wind projects being proposed.

The first is a 200MW wind farm near Merredin, being developed by a joint venture comprising Investec Bank (Australia) and CSIRO-backed Windlab Systems.

The $600 million project received planning approval from council late last year and is expected to start construction mid-year.

When completed, the wind farm will comprise 127 wind turbines on the 13,000-hectare site located 25 kilometres south-east of Merredin, capable of generating enough electricity to power 160,000 homes.

Griffin is going through feasibility studies of its proposed 130MW Badgingarra Wind Farm with joint venture partner Stanwell Corporation.

On the transmission side, Western Power is awaiting the final determination of its access arrangement two document, in which it proposed about $6 billion of network upgrades over the next three years.

A Western Power spokesperson said a review of the numbers might be required as the document was compiled before the effects of the economic downturn were known and growth forecasts for the state were revised down.

Dampier Bunbury Pipeline (DBP), which owns the Dampier to Bunbury natural gas pipeline, will spend $700 million over the next three years undertaking the next stage of its expansion plans.

Work commenced on the 5B expansion project, which involves duplicating several sections of the pipeline, earlier this year.

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