The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) has welcomed an announcement that $708 million will be spent to upgrade WA’s power grid to pave the way for new large-scale renewable energy projects, but expressed its concern over comments made in support of the continued use of gas.
The WA Premier, Roger Cook, unveiled the plan this morning, saying that ‘there is no energy transition without better transmission’. He told attendees at the Energy Transition Summit in Perth that the announcement represented the “largest investment in transmission infrastructure in WA in more than ten years”.
“Growing our electricity network is critical to unlocking our renewable energy potential – to reduce our own emissions, and to help countries across the region reduce theirs”, he said.
However, comments made by the Premier in support of fossil fuel gas exports, which he claimed are ‘supporting our region to decarbonise’, have raised concerns that at least some of the funding could be used to aid existing and proposed fossil fuel projects. The Premier repeated those comments in opinion piece published for the West Australian newspaper, which coincided with today’s announcement.
The government says the spending will cover the creation of a new body ‘PoweringWA’ which will sit within the Department of Energy, Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DEMIRS). It will be responsible for planning for new infrastructure and necessary upgrades to existing infrastructure required to support new large-scale renewables across the state.
PoweringWA’s first task will be a new 330kV connection between Malaga and Pinjar, which will enable future renewable energy projects north of Perth to link up with the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), delivering green energy to the Metro area.
The Premier also announced a government incentive to attract new large-scale ‘clean’ energy projects, with $160M in funding available against the first five years of industrial leases in designated ‘Strategic Industrial Areas’, though whether that funding will be limited purely to renewable energy projects was not made clear.
Earlier this year, the WA State Government announced a $2.8 billion fund to construct a new ‘big battery’ at Collie and to expand the existing 200MW battery at Kwinana. Investment in battery storage technology is a key component of the transition to renewable energy, allowing for power generated by solar and wind to be stored for later use.
Jayde Rowlands, Better Climate Program Manager at the Conservation Council of WA, said: “This is a great step towards preparing our energy grid for the large-scale renewable energy projects we need to decarbonise”, he said.
“As well as the enormous benefits to our climate, phasing out fossil fuels in favour of building up new green energy capacity will unlock thousands of sustainable jobs and provide a route out of expiring industries – like fossil fuels – for WA workers.
“WA has the potential to be a world-leading, globally competitive decarbonised economy but this requires the necessary funding to kick-start what could be a boom period for our state.
“We congratulate the Premier and his government on today’s announcement – however – his comments in support of the transition towards renewable energy cannot be viewed in isolation, particularly in light of his recent very public comments in which he expressed his support for use of highly polluting gas for the foreseeable future.
“Those comments and his insistence that gas – a fossil fuel – is somehow a legitimate part of the effort to decarbonise, are completely undermined by the global scientific consensus which says there can be no new investment in fossil fuels.
“Upgrades to WA’s electricity transmission network must serve as a genuine pathway to a faster and more comprehensive renewable energy transition in our state, and not as a lifeline for the continuing use of polluting and inefficient fossil fuels.”