09/08/2017 - 15:59

Wyatt moves to enable Alinta access to NWIS

09/08/2017 - 15:59

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The state government plans to prepare reforms to allow third-party access in the North West Interconnected System, the Pilbara’s electricity network, ready for a cabinet decision in March 2018, in a move that would end years of impasse.

Wyatt moves to enable Alinta access to NWIS
Ben Wyatt expects cabinet will review changes in March 2018. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The state government plans to prepare reforms to allow third-party access in the North West Interconnected System, the Pilbara’s electricity network, ready for a cabinet decision in March 2018, in a move that would end years of impasse.

The NWIS has a large amount of excess capacity, with a number of isolated generation plants built at mine sites not connected to the system at large, meaning the region has both high capital outlays on electricity and high prices for users.

The Public Utilities Office has been tasked with setting up a new regulatory system, and a framework is to be finalised by early next year.

Alinta Energy, which has a retail licence for the region, applied to the Economic Regulation Authority to access Horizon Power’s north-western network in 2014 to expand its coverage.

That application was later withdrawn, with Alinta intending to achieve a negotiated outcome with Horizon.

The following year, former energy minister Mike Nahan set up a review of the system led by Synergy chairman Lyndon Rowe.

The Pilbara Electricity Infrastructure Project report made three major recommendations, a light-handed regulatory regime, separate ownership of the network, and an independent system operator.

Last year, Dr Nahan flagged a sale of Horizon’s transmission lines in a bid to raise $800 million and tick off one of those recommendations.

Now, Energy Minister Ben Wyatt is targeting a light-handed regulatory regime to enable access for other players, such as Alinta.

“I expect to be in a position to take a detailed reform proposal and implementation plan to cabinet by March 2018,” Mr Wyatt said.

“I look forward to engaging with industry and other stakeholders to design and implement an effective regulatory regime for the North West Interconnected System in the Pilbara.”

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