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West Kimberley competition keen

WESTERN Power has short-listed seven out of a dozen expressions of interest for the West Kimberley power project encompassing Broome, Derby, Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek and Camballin-Looma.

The government utility has been keen to offload its expense in the region for some time.

Of those invited to submit detailed project proposals, three are from other States or Territories, including Victorian-based Pacific Hydro and the Queensland-based EDL Group.

Also among the shortlist of hopefuls to take on the challenge is the Northern Territory Government’s Power and Water Corporation.

At least four of the seven invited bids are believed to contain some renewable component, including tidal and solar power.

Competition is keen and the stakes are high.

A Sydney economics analyst has put a $500 million lifetime tag on the project.

However, Power and Water Corp-oration has said it is not considering anywhere near that cost.

Power and Water, which has two large renewable power projects in the NT, is proposing to provide solar voltaic power to the smaller towns – Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek and Camballin-Looma.

The corporation said it had not yet made a decision to proceed with a formal bid and would talk with Western Power next week about partnering with a group that was happy to provide the higher end power to Derby and Broome.

“From a technical and personal point of view we have it all, but will be making a decision from a business opportunity view,” a Power and Water spokesperson said.

Melbourne-based renewable power company Pacific Hydro also is evaluating its position.

The company, which established an office in Perth last October, said it would decide later this month whether or not to put in a proposal.

Listed Queensland-based EDL Group, whose core business is remote area power generation – overseas, and in the Northern Territory and north-west Queensland – says it can offer a range of power generation technologies to the West Kimberley.

The company opened an office in Perth in 2000, but this is its first regional power project bid.

However, Burns & Roe Worley is an old hand, seeking to repeat its success with two other regional power projects.

BRW signed with Western Power on the Esperance power purchase agreement in July and is continuing negotiations as the single preferred bidder for the Exmouth power procurement process.

The company is proposing gas-fuelled generation, with a significant renewable contribution in the smaller towns.

On how the gas will be delivered, BRW will only say it is “considering all options”.

The company’s Exmouth proposal under negotiation includes CNG road transport from a new com-pressed natural gas facility on the Dampier to Bunbury line, and LPG back-up, but its alternative proposal included a new pipeline from the Dampier to Bunbury line.

The Esperance project involves a 330-kilometre extension of the Goldfields Gas Pipeline.

Kimberley Power is talking of an LNG processing plant in Port Hedland, in addition to the power stations for the five Kimberley towns.

It intends to truck the LNG to the power plants and the mining sector.

The company has offers of supply for the Port Hedland plant and has secured one memorandum of under-standing, one letter of intent and one agreement for a memorandum of understanding to supply LNG to regional miners.

StateWest Power, reserve bidder for the previous West Kimberley power tender process, is in there again, putting up a bid for all five power stations. A sustainable element was included in each, State West Power development director Ian Stewart said, and the company was continuing negotiations with several groups concerning fuel supply.

The high number of successful bids means Western Power will have its work cut out in assessing the competing proposals.

But evaluation criteria, together with weightings, were publicised at the beginning of the expressions of interest process, and the addition of two community representatives to the assessment process has boosted evaluation capacity.

A Western Power spokesperson said industry was keen to demonstrate what it could offer in the way of power to the West Kimberley.

The project had received a lot of attention over the past two years, he said, and the government utility was not surprised at the response.

Western Power will meet one-on-one with all potential bidders this month, and those submitting detailed proposals must do so by the end of the year.

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