Gallop said the need to diversify WA’s sources of power, security of supply and regional employment would all be taken into account when choosing between the four options – which include three coal-fired and one gas-fired proposal.
The emphasis on regional employment is a clear indicator that the preferred option will be a coal-fired power station. The three coal options are all to be built near the town of Collie in the state’s South-West, while the gas-fired station would be built on Perth’s southern fringe.
The option that wins government approval will be guaranteed a 25-year supply contract with state utility Western Power.
Collie and the nearby city of Bunbury are both in marginal state states, and both sides of politics are keen to be seen to be helping the local economies.
Citing “security of supply concerns” also indicates that the government may be preparing the way for a coal-fired station. The state’s 2004 electricity crisis was blamed on capacity constraints in the Dampier-to-Bunbury gas pipeline.
But Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) executive director Barry Jones told EnergyReview.net that this was a false perception.
"It is a myth that last February's blackouts were due to a lack of gas supply – there was actually 34% spare capacity in the pipeline the day the system went down,” Jones said.
“The blackouts were due to management failures, not gas supply problems.”
Jones also ridiculed the Gallop Government’s emphasis on diversity of supply.
"It seems that the government is also basing its decision on the grounds of diversity of supply and some economic merit of retaining coal," he said.
"The government acts as if opting for coal will increase diversity of supply. But the last power station they approved [Bluewaters One, now being built near Collie] was coal-fired, and according to the WA Office of Energy, 68% of publicly owned electricity generation in the State comes from coal,” he said.
“Interestingly, 90% of private electricity generation is from gas, which shows what option makes most sense to people driven by economic criteria.
“If Western Australia builds another coal-fired base-load station, its citizens will end up paying more for their electricity and will suffer from higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.”