Horizon Power has begun a $400 million search to avert a generating crisis in the Pilbara, launching a global tender for a new gas-fired power station in Port Hedland.
In a series of international trade-press and national newspaper advertisements, Horizon has called for expressions of interest from the private sector to build a 110 megawatt power station at the Boodarie industrial site in South Hedland from the end of 2015.
Horizon is scrambling to find electricity to keep the lights on in the Pilbara because the mining giants who generate power for the region no longer have spare capacity, and its current contract with Alinta Energy expires within three years.
Alinta has said it wants to use the power for other customers and, as _WestBusiness _reported last month, has ambitious plans to potentially tie its 210 MW Port Hedland power station to a grid linking mines in the region, possibly also opening the way for more solar power.
As part of its bid to safeguard supplies in the short-term, Horizon last month inked a $125 million contract with Forge Group to develop crucial infrastructure at the Boodarie site, which will be able to be used by any bigger future plant.
The State Government set aside $118 million for the project, but expects to recoup that from future power plant operators. Horizon has also installed smaller generators at existing sites to bolster electricity supplies, and managing director Frank Tudor said he was confident a long-term solution to supply power to homes and businesses in the booming region could be found.
"The approach we have been using to provide power in the Pilbara has been to satisfy a number of things: security of supply, long term value for the business, the cost of supply and the State Government's Budget pressures," Mr Tudor told _WestBusiness _.
"We have been trying to squeeze out the excess capacity that has existed on the system, particularly around the Alinta contract, and we have done that and probably will get to that (by) the end of 2015."
Horizon was forced into the stop-gap measures last year, when Treasury rejected its original plan to build a $400 million plant as it would have added to the State's growing debt, forecast to be $24.7 billion by 2015-16.
However a gas-fired power plant will take at least 18 months to build, plus extra for planning, meaning that a decision on whether to proceed with a new power station would be needed shortly after next month's election, in time for the May Budget.
Mr Tudor said the business case had not yet been submitted to Government.