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Power play creates strange bedfellows

IT is often said that times of great change can make for strange bedfellows, and the proposed changes to WA’s electricity market have proved no exception.

The Conservation Council of WA has found its aims to be aligned with those of ‘black’ power generators, such as the coal and gas industries.

At its Energy for the Future forum this week the council joined with representatives from those industries to support the Electricity Reform Task Force’s recommendations and to inform the public about what changes could be expected.

Conservation Council of WA Cool Communities facilitator Chris Tallentire said the council’s analysis of the situation suggested that the best opportunity for renewable, or green, generation came from the vertical disaggregation of Western Power.

He admitted that view had brought the council alongside industries it would not normally align with.

“We want an energy industry that is low in greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Tallentire said.

“Being realistic, if we had 30 per cent of our electricity coming from renewables, 30 per cent coming from gas and 30 per cent coming from coal and the remaining 10 per cent removed through energy need reductions, it would be a huge step forward for WA.”

Indeed, coal is making the most of its opportunities to step up its role in the electricity market.

The industry’s future came under threat earlier this year when it was not given a chance to bid to fuel a new power station sought by the WA Government.

At the forum, Griffin Energy’s new general manager business development, Gary Jeffrey, pushed the argument that coal, particularly Collie coal, was a “greener” fuel than most thought because it produced no methane and little ash when burnt.

He pushed the cause for the three-way power mix and also Griffin’s proposed coal-fired power plant near Collie, which will also boast a windfarm producing up to 80 megawatts and a biodiesel plant that will produce up to another 40 megawatts.

Mr Jeffrey said that plant also could help desalinate the Collie River and provide 130 gigalitres of fresh water within two seasons, removing the need for the Kwinana-based desalination plant.

However, Mr Tallentire said the council did not support the need for more coal-fired generation.

“We need a dramatic increase in renewables,” he said.

AlintaGas manager electricity strategy Andrew George also took the chance to tout for a greater role of the gas industry in electricity generation.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry director industry policy Bill Sashegyi said WA’s current electricity structure had stifled competition and innovation.

“The change is drawing together industry and conservationists,” he said.

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