WA coal power snuffed out

Western Australia’s State-owned coal power stations will be retired by 2030 – as the continued uptake of rooftop solar and renewables forces changes in the energy system to ensure a secure electricity supply and guard against higher power bills.

The Collie Power Station will close in late-2027 and Muja D in late-2029. As previously announced, Muja C’s Unit 5 will close later this year and Unit 6 in 2024.

WA’s electricity system is being increasingly challenged by the overwhelming uptake of rooftop solar. These pressures have forced statutory energy provider Synergy to offload excess power generated during the day at a loss, and add additional maintenance and generation costs, which are ultimately borne by taxpayers.

Energy Minister Bill Johnston  said to address this, the State’s energy generation system will embark on a sensible, managed transition to a greater use of renewables, while ensuring electricity reliability and affordability continues to be paramount.

“An estimated $3.8 billion will be invested in new green power infrastructure in the South West Interconnected System (SWIS) – including wind generation and storage – to ensure continued supply stability and affordability,” he said.

“This will be the largest infrastructure program in WA since METRONET, and will set the State up for a reliable, affordable, renewable energy future – while creating thousands of jobs in regional WA.

“Without the decision to retire the power stations, over the next decade WA would either see major electricity price hikes or taxpayers would be forced to fund billions of dollars of subsidies to keep the system running.

“Under current settings, it is estimated household electricity costs would rise from their current average rate of about $1800 per year to more than $3000 per year.

“Alternatively, WA taxpayers would be required to subsidise Synergy to the tune of almost $3 billion to 2029-30 to cover the ongoing losses of the energy provider, taking funding away from key government projects and services.”

The investment in new renewable power infrastructure is expected to pay for itself by 2030-31 relative to the increasing electricity subsidies payable under the status quo.

The transition to higher levels of renewables and storage will happen in a sensible, orderly, consultative manner to ensure workers, industry and communities are strongly supported.

Household electricity prices will remain affordable, with the State Government continuing to cap prices at inflation in line with its 2021 election commitment.

A new $547.4 million Collie Transition Package will support the town of Collie over the next decade, to grow new industries and local jobs – bringing the Government’s investment in the area to more than $662 million.

The Collie Transition Package includes a new $200 million Collie Industrial Transition Fund, expanded skills and training opportunities for workers and additional job-creating investment.

By phasing out coal-fired power, Synergy’s carbon emissions will be reduced by 80 per cent by 2030, including a 40 per cent emissions reduction on the SWIS, compared to 2020-21 levels.

It is expected that additional industry demand for renewable energy will result in even greater emissions reductions on the SWIS.

The State Government is committed to working with coal providers to ensure security of supply through to 2030, and an orderly transition for industry, including entities that use coal in their technical processes.

Premier Mark McGowan said that Collie had literally powered the State for more than a century.

“My Government is absolutely committed to ensuring the town has a strong economic and jobs future,” he said.

“The transition will be implemented in a sensible, consultative manner, with long lead times to ensure workers and the wider community can plan for the future.”

Editor of industrial titles and mastheads with Prime Creative Media. Publications include Rail Express and Australian Mining (web content).
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