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Powerlines bill up to $500m

 

WESTERN Australia is facing a $500 million bill to upgrade its ageing electricity transmission infrastructure or face increasing problems in rural areas.

Opposition Leader Colin Barnett told WA Business News he received advice from Western Power in 2000 that the $500 million needed to be spent over five years starting from 2001.

That money was not being spent, according to Mr Barnett.

“What this Government is doing is maintenance. The real problem is in the transmission infrastructure. It needs to be upgraded,” he said.

WA’s new Energy Safety Directorate director Albert Koenig released a report in June on consumer complaints about the reliability of electricity supply on the SWIS (South West Interconnected System).

In that report he identified that the most significant complaints were from Toodyay (59), Bremer Bay (38) and Koorda (22). The most common complaint was failure of electricity supply on a regular basis.

A lot of those problems stem from the fact that the electricity demands in those communities have gone beyond the means of infrastructure, which was installed in the 1960s to cope with 1960s demands.

While the Government agrees there is a problem, it disagrees with the cost.

A spokesman for Energy Minister Eric Ripper said the $500 million claim was “a nonsense”.

However, he admitted that the actual cost of upgrading WA’s electricity infrastructure had not been quantified.

Electricity industry figures say a “substantial” amount is needed.

Mr Ripper’s spokesman said the Government had trebled its spending on line maintenance on the SWIS to $29.4 million this year and $18.6 million on distribution and capital works.

“That’s compared with the $11.6 million in the last year of the Coalition Government,” he said.

The Government is hoping that its plan to split Western Power into four separate entities will allow more emphasis to be placed on the transmission system.

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