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A$126m to be spent of forward planning at SWIS

10th May 2023

By: Esmarie Iannucci

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

     

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PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Western Australian state government has allocated A$126-million to kickstart early network planning, following the release of a landmark report into the future of the state’s main electricity grid, the South West Interconnected System (SWIS).

Mines and Petroleum, and Energy Minister Bill Johnston said this week that the SWIS Demand Assessment had collated industry data to understand the potential change in electricity demand over the next 20 years, considering the requirements of existing industrial users on the SWIS and potential growth in new industries such as hydrogen and critical minerals. 

He noted that as industry and government move towards net zero emissions by 2050, the expected demand for renewable energy from the SWIS would increase significantly. 

Initial modelling anticipates an additional 7.2 GW of new industry electricity demand will occur in the SWIS by 2042, which could require up to 51.1 GW of new generation and storage capacity to supply it. This is almost ten times the amount of generation capacity currently on the SWIS.

“The SWIS Demand Assessment provides a vision of what the future grid might look like as industry seeks to decarbonise. 

“This modelling builds on the 2020 Whole of System Plan, recognising the urgency of action on climate change and the accelerated decarbonisation plans for the state's major industries,” said Johnston.

“Transmission infrastructure is a critical enabler of our energy transition, being essential for connecting users with renewable energy resources. 

“An expanded grid is the most cost-efficient way of supporting decarbonisation as it can reach further for wind and solar. The SWIS cannot rely on other electricity systems to support it, so having a strong transmission backbone is critical for reliable supply.  

“The government is getting started with grid infrastructure planning and development, and is reviewing a range of regulatory processes to ensure they are fit-for-purpose,” he added.

The SWIS Demand Assessment complements the 2020 Whole of System Plan by looking at the future growth of electricity demand that is largely driven by industry's action on climate change.

Investment in transmission infrastructure was fundamental, with the modelling indicating more than 4000 km of new network could be required to connect industrial users with new renewable energy projects and unlock constrained areas of the SWIS, Johnson said. 

To kickstart investment into the grid, the government's 2023/24 State Budget will include A$126-million for Western Power to commence planning works in the northern, central, southern and eastern corridors of the SWIS, reflecting the highest anticipated growth areas. 

The funding will support planning and purchase of long-lead items for initial upgrades in the north network, which is expected to see a boom in new energy projects, as well as upgrades in the east network.

Public ownership of the SWIS, combined with Western Australia's domestic gas reservation policy, provided the state a pathway to a low-carbon future without the excessive price increases and instability seen in other parts of Australia, the Minister noted.

The state government will work with industrial users to determine their investment in the State-owned network. This engagement seeks to ensure the cost of new network infrastructure to meet industry green energy demands is not passed onto household energy consumers. 

With the SWIS Demand Assessment complete, consultation with existing and new industrial users will now progress to inform a network investment strategy, including mechanisms for industry contributions and third-party investments.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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