Power game too hot for some

A LACK of electricity suppliers and constant undercutting from competitors has caused one of WA’s independent electricity retailers to close its doors.

Even a bold bid to build a combined fossil fuel and renewable energy generator in the South West could not save WA Power Consolidators – launched in 1999 as WA Consolidated Power.

The project, which involved constructing a plant near Manjimup to use a combination of gases drawn from wood waste and natural gas from the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline, was shelved in August after the company conceded it was unable to secure sufficient shareholder funds.

WAPC set out to capitalise on the then WA Government’s de-regulation of the electricity industry that opened 118 customers using between one megawatt and five megawatts a year to competition.

Despite the closure, WAPC director Walter Tieleman, also a senior partner in accounting firm McKessar Tieleman, believes the company had saved power consumers about $30 million.

“Every time we negotiated a price with a customer Western Power would undercut us,” Mr Tieleman said.

The company relied on receiving power from independent power producers, such as Trans Alta’s generator based near Kalgoorlie, and Worsley Alumina’s power plant. Those IPPs have decided to place their power elsewhere.

WAPC director and chief executive officer John Cochrane said its generator would have provided a substantial supply to the SouthWest Interconnected System and underpinned the operations of a second major electricity retailer.

He said the Government needed to focus on the market end of the industry.

“Any number of people want to get into generation but you need the control of how you’re going to sell the power,” Mr Cochrane said.

There are at least two remaining competitors in the electricity retail market – Perth Energy and Trans Alta.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry manager, industry and resources, Bill Sashegyi said he believed WAPC had shown promise but had been unable to deliver.

“The experience of WAPC is a case study of the current technical and marketing difficulties competitors face in the current electricity market environment,” he said.

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