WESTERN Power managing director Doug Aberle has described stage one of the Mid West energy project as backbone transmission infrastructure for future development in the region, after it secured Economic Regulation Authority approval last week.
The ERA has decided that the benefits of the almost $380 million project now outweigh the cost of the infrastructure, while also providing assurance the project is an efficient means of meeting future power needs.
Less than three months ago the ERA said it was planning to oppose the spending because the 330-kilovolt line may put customers at risk of increased charges with no commensurate benefit.
However, after the two parties addressed what Western Power called “some complex issues”, stage one of the project moved a step closer to construction.
Stage one of the project, a 260-kilometre double-circuit transmission line between Neerabup and Three Springs, is the first of a two-stage plan to connect Geraldton to the state’s main power grid.
Western Power is currently progressing with stakeholder engagement, planning and regulatory approval for stage two.
Mr Aberle told WA Business News the ERA approval for stage one enabled a number of new projects and associated investment in the region.
“These include wind farms and other power generators; and mining operations such as the Karara mine east of Three Springs,” Mr Aberle said. “MWEP, along with the other projects which will be enabled as a result, will provide significant employment and economic opportunities for the Mid West region.
“For the MWEP project alone, we would estimate a workforce of around 300 people during construction.”
The line is expected to incorporate a number of Mid West mines in development, including Gindalbie Metals’ Karara mine, Asia Iron’s Extension Hill project, and Crosslands Resources’ Jack Hills mine.
Mr Aberle said approval to execute remaining contracts with Gindalbie subsidiary Karara Mining, along with final government approvals and approval to award construction contracts, were still required.
“Western Power continues to work closely with Karara Mining in order to work towards the provision of their supply by the timeframes agreed,” he said.
The ERA’s approval allows Western Power to include $377.8 million of the $383.4 million it sought in November last year into the asset base for stage one. Western Power advised the ERA a month later that the revised cost for stage 1 would be $378.9 million. The ERA has determined that stage one is likely to deliver $414 million in benefits to the region.