Gas-fired plant only option to meet Western Power deadline

THE debate over Western Australia’s next baseload power station has taken another twist with state-owned utility Western Power saying it wants the plant to be ready by December 2008. This would give the proposal for a gas-fired facility the edge over the coal-fired models.

Wambo Power Ventures, a joint venture between ERM Power and Babcock & Brown, has said if its bid was successful the JV would have its gas-fired plant in the southern Perth suburb of Kwinana onstream in less than two years.

Collie coal producers, Wesfarmers Premier Coal, and Griffin Energy, are making bids for coal-fired plants, but neither are likely to be able to meet this deadline.

Final bids for the new baseload station must be delivered to Western Power by noon today. Western Power will buy electricity from the new 300 megawatt plant for 25 years.

But the final decision will not be made by Western Power but by the Gallop Government, which is expected to announce the successful bidder in September.

Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) executive director Barry Jones told that the gas-fired proposal had a clear edge in economic and environmental criteria.

It would also offer the state a better balance of power generation as most power in WA was generated by coal and the last power plant approved by the government was a coal-fired station, Jones said.

Now it seems that the gas-fired option also offers greater security of supply to a state regularly bedevilled by power problems in the peak summer period.

The only advantage that coal seems to have is its ability to provide jobs in two marginal state seats in south-west WA.