7 Nov 2012
Dumb and dumber energy choices in the wild West
"A power plant that is built, but doesn’t operate, and is paid for by a state-sponsored tariff imposed on consumers. The Perth-based company Merredin Energy is in the throes of completing an 82MW peaking plant near the wheat-belt town of the same name. It is being built at an estimated cost of $95 million and proposes to use expensive and highly polluting diesel fuel, but it may never be switched on. And if it isn’t, its owners might not care – under WA’s capacity payments system, they’ll likely make enough money simply for being there – around $15 million in its first year. In fact, they might prefer if the plant wasn’t used".
"The company SolarHart began in WA in the late 1950s when a bunch of plumbers, frustrated with the expensive and dirty coal fired generation based in the south west of the state, decided that heating water with the sun was a lot more efficient, and cheaper than with coal".
"By the late 1970s nearly one third of new houses were installed with solar hot water heaters. That figure plunged to less than 1 per cent once the government started to flog subsidized gas".
"But even when renewable energy development has occurred, there is an air of tokenism. After the construction of the first Esperance wind farm, little was built in following decades. And on the same day that Energy Minister Peter Collier travelled to Geraldton to open the 10MW Greenough River solar farm built by First Solar, GE and Verve Energy, he and premier Colin Barnett said they wanted the federal government to get rid of the renewable energy target – a move that would surely mean that no more solar plants of that type would be built for the foreseeable future".
The irony is that WA is home to the best wind and solar resources. Peter Newman says WA should now return to wind and especially solar, and use its natural resources to advantage.