WA urged not to delay on renewable energy

·2-min read

Western Australia must continue its rapid energy transition by investing further in renewables to avoid a looming shortfall in power capacity.

A new report by the Australian Energy Market Operator has found WA faced looming generation deficits even before the state government outlined a timetable for phasing out coal.

WA's Wholesale Electricity Market, which operates separately to the national grid, faced a shortfall of 21MW from 2025-26 which could potentially grow to 303MW by 2031-32 if no new capacity was committed, the report said.

The forecast did not factor in the announcement this week that WA's two state-owned, coal-fired power plants will close by the end of the decade.

The 340MW Collie coal-fired power station will close in October 2027 and the 854MW Muja station will follow two years later. Both are run by state-owned generator and retailer Synergy.

Almost $4 billion will be invested in renewable generation across WA's system in coming years, including more wind power, pumped hydro and batteries.

AEMO's WA executive general manager Kate Ryan says annual peak demand is forecast to grow by 0.9 per cent over the next decade amid increased industrial energy use, housing growth and the uptake of electric vehicles.

"New, firmed renewable capacity ... can help alleviate any projected shortfalls as the future of WA's power system takes shape towards 2030," Ms Ryan said on Friday.

Renewables were already providing up to 79 per cent of power generation at any given time on the South West Interconnected System, she said.

WA's premier Mark McGowan said on Friday renewable energy, particularly rooftop solar, was "basically displacing coal each and every day".

He told ABC radio WA had avoided the recent instability in power supply on the east coast in part because of its domestic gas reservation policy.

WA reserves about 15 per cent of gas available for export for its domestic energy market. The policy, introduced by former Labor premier Alan Carpenter in 2006, was bitterly opposed by resources companies at the time.

Mr McGowan acknowledged transferring such a policy to the east coast would be complex but said it should not be ruled out.

"Obviously putting it in place retrospectively is difficult but when you've got a crisis where you don't have enough gas, that's what I'd encourage the Commonwealth government to look at," he said.

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