Saturday, 29 December 2007

WA turns to coal in an energy pinch

Western Australia's gas supply crisis has hit power retailer Synergy which has been forced to sign a supply deal for coal fired energy.

Details reported by ABC.

According to the CARMA database, Western Australia's carbon intensity [Pounds of CO2 emitted per megawatt-hour of electricity produced] is slightly better then Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales.

However to meet growing energy demand, Synergy has signed deals for 200 megawatts of coal capacity from the proposed Bluewater Two project in Collie and another 330 megawatts of electricity from a proposed gas fired power station to be built in Neerabup, north of Perth.

Synergy's Managing Director Jim Mitchell

"We basically went to coal because it provided our customers with the most cost effective solution from both a security of supply point of view, a price point of view and an environmental point of view" he said.

I wonder what, exactly, was the less environmental option being considered?

The WA government has been quick to back up the utility. Saying greenhouse targets will be met.

The Energy Minister Fran Logan
"Our footprint here in Western Australia is far better than it is in the eastern states," he said.

"Sixty per cent of all power generated in Western Australia is generated by gas. Eighty per cent of power generated in the eastern states is by coal."
I wouldn't say it is 'far' better, WA's carbon intensity is nearly 90% that of Victoria and Queensland and 99% that of New South Wales. Building more coal plants doesn't sound like a path to improvement.

Chris Tallentire of the Conservation Council also thinks this move is a backwards step.
"This power station is old technology," he said.

"We should not be going ahead with a new coal fired power station when we can possibly wait for newer technology to come online in say five to ten years."
5 to 10 years is in the neighborhood of feasible nuclear power deployment in Australia.

These decisions highlight a basic contradiction. While renewable targets will be met - golden halos all around - the quality and reliability of renewable sources alone fail to provide the security of supply required to satisfy increasing demand. [And yes, demand continues to increase albeit at a somewhat slower rate in the best case implementation scenarios for conservation and efficiency improvement programmes.] Over reliance on renewables, conservation and efficiency, along with increasing natural gas prices as mentioned in the report, means more coal power stations. Taking nuclear out of the discussion ensures WA and Australia will remain on this path for the foreseeable future.

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