Electricity reform a win for the Pilbara

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph

Industry bodies have welcomed new State Government legislation aimed at addressing the price and reliability of energy supply in regional and remote communities.

The Electricity Industry Amendment Bill 2019, which passed State Parliament today will enable business to use stand-alone power systems and storage devices in the Great Southern, Goldfields, Wheatbelt, Mid-West and Geraldton for the first time.

Stand-alone power systems are more cost-effective, safer and more reliable than traditional poles and wires in some areas while storage devices such as batteries will assist in managing some of the challenges related to the high uptake of rooftop solar panels.

Designed in close consultation with industry, Western Power stand-alone power systems manager Margot Hammond welcomed the decision as a win for customer choice as well as certainty for WA’s energy businesses.

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“Power reliability and quality is an ongoing concern for regional community members serviced by long stretches of power lines, which are at the mercy of wind, rain, vegetation, lightning and bushfires,” she said.

“The frequency and duration of outages for customers in remote locations is significantly higher than their urban neighbours.

“Our first SPS trial in 2016 exceeded expectations by significantly improving power reliability and quality for customers — it also had the added benefit of increased renewable energy with more than 90 per cent of electricity generated from the sun during the trial.”

Ms Hammond said that at present more than 50 per cent of the overhead distribution network currently serviced less than three per cent of customers, adding the installation of thousands of SPS units over the next 30 years will avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in replacing poles and wires.

State Government Energy Minister Bill Johnston said the passing of the bill marked a key milestone in the McGowan Governments energy reform agenda.

“The reforms will reduce the regulatory burden placed on Pilbara electricity owners and provide greater certainty to access seekers wishing invest,” he said.

“Greater competition for industrial users will reduce the cost of electricity, encourage investment and create jobs in the region.

“The reforms will assist in Western Australia’s economic recovery post the COVID-19 crisis.”

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