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The WA Premier has admitted it is likely the state will be forced to import coal from New South Wales to keep its lights on over the coming years.
- Mark McGowan says sourcing enough coal will be a challenge
- Mr McGowan says coal will be needed for another eight years
- There are growing concerns over the state’s electricity grid
Concerns about the state’s coal supply have been steadily growing, with receivers appointed to one of the state’s main coal mines in September.
The following month, the government admitted it would be shutting down one of the state’s coal-fired power stations for three months “to further build its coal stockpiles”.
Coal needed until 2030: Premier
Premier Mark McGowan said finding enough coal would continue to be a challenge as the state’s power grid transitions away from coal and closes its remaining coal-fired plants by 2030.
“We will continue to need coal until 2030 to keep the system operational,” he said.
“That will be a challenge to make sure that we have that supply while we keep the system operational whilst we convert to 80 per cent renewables and 20 per cent gas.
“That will continue to be an ongoing issue, but we’re managing as best we can.”
Mr McGowan said it was “likely” coal would have to be imported, probably from New South Wales, but with an “expectation” it would at least come from somewhere in Australia.
“There’s been issues with the companies in Collie providing coal to the system due to rain and some of the overlay on the coal fields and some equipment failures they’ve suffered from,” he said.
“So it’s likely we’ll have to [import coal] this year.”
The Premier insisted those issues had nothing to do with the state’s move away from coal.
But Liberal leader David Honey disagreed.
“The uncertainty created by that, absolutely, you can see that will have focused the owners’ minds in terms of investment for the future,” Mr Honey said.
“This is ridiculous and this is a complete failure of government that sits at their feet.”
“The uncertainty they’ve created for those suppliers is exacerbating the problem.”
A spokesperson for government-owned power generator Synergy said it had “sufficient coal” to meet electricity demand in WA’s main electricity grid – the South West Interconnected System – over the summer period.
“Synergy is exploring an option to secure coal from interstate to insure against any unforeseen interruptions in future coal supply,” the said.
“Synergy is unable to speak to the details surrounding its contractual arrangements with coal suppliers as this information is commercially sensitive.”
Customers to be warned of blackout risk
The Premier’s comments came as the state government launched its plans to manage high power demand over what is expected to be a hotter-than-usual summer.
That will include text messages warning customers to reduce their power usage if their area is at risk of outages.
“Western Power can see when things are becoming congested in a specific location, [and can] text people in that area and say ‘turn your air conditioner down and you’re less likely to lose power supply’,” Energy Minister Bill Johnston told ABC Radio Perth.
An advertising campaign will also run to encourage people to reduce their power usage between 5pm and 9pm.
It comes nearly a year on from a scorching summer that overwhelmed the state’s grid, with 100,000 people affected by power outages over the Christmas period.