The Albanese government will provide up to $3 billion towards expanding and modernising Western Australia’s (WA) major electricity grids.
On Aug. 29, the Albanese and state Cook governments signed a landmark agreement to provide renewable energy to homes in Perth, the South West, and the North West Pilbara region.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government’s Rewiring the Nation deal is aimed at unlocking economic development and speeding up decarbonisation.
The prime minister said the plan “will help future-proof WA’s energy supply while also creating new jobs in energy, mining, and manufacturing.”
About 1,800 construction jobs could be supported, empowering regional communities.
The deal comes after Mr. Albenese visited Karratha in the Pilbara region last weekend. He pledged to regularly visit WA because the state’s voters were pivotal in helping federal Labor return to office.
“I visited Karratha and saw firsthand the economic power of the Pilbara—as the global economy decarbonises, we need to provide opportunities for regions like the Pilbara to be powered by as much renewable energy as possible,” Mr. Albanese said.
The WA’s demand assessment process has identified the state’s primary electricity grids, the South West Interconnected System (SWIS) and the North West Interconnected System (NWIS) as key focus points.
According to the SWIS Demand Assessment (SWISDA), more investment is needed in SWIS transmission networks to increase renewable energy supply.
Western Australia Premier Roger Cook said WA had delivered a sensible and achievable plan to create new clean energy industries by decarbonising existing ones.
His energy minister, Bill Johnston, thanked the private industry for their commitment to decarbonisation.
“It is expected the private sector will largely fund the cost of renewable energy generation and transmission infrastructure in the Pilbara, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars over the coming decades,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Johnston led the concept and consulted to gather the support and commitment of WA’s key industry players.
Premier Cook said the package was significant and meant the state could accelerate the development of crucial energy transmission projects.
For Pilbara’s NWIS, the funding in concessional loans and equity investments would support the standalone networks with more renewable energy while ensuring existing infrastructure upgrades are coordinated.
Currently, the NWIS has a small proportion (less than two percent) of electricity generated from renewables.
Initial modelling suggests that in 20 years, the SWIS grid will need up to five times more electricity than is available today as new industrial users connect. SWIS serves more than 1.1 million residential and business customers in Perth and the South West.
Federal Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the announcement was about setting WA up for the future.
“Renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy, and the Rewiring the Nation deal will put downward pressure on electricity bills for WA consumers in the years ahead,” Mr. Bowen said in a statement.
“The Australian and West Australian governments are enabling WA to capitalise on the renewable energy transformation.”
SWIS Demand Assessment 2023 to 2042
Earlier this year, the SWIS Demand Assessment was delivered by a Treasury-led grouping, with individuals from Energy Policy WA, Western Power, the Department of Premier and Cabinet, the Department of Jobs and Tourism, and the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation.
According to the Assessment, the SWIS would need an additional 4,000 kilometres of new transmission lines and 50GW of new renewable electricity and storage infrastructure to support increased demand over the next 20 years.
The modelling also showed significant SWIS investment was required in all directions (North, South, East, and Central).
Mr. Johnston said the SWIS Demand Assessment is only the first step in the journey towards grid transformation.
He said the government would work with industry to confirm network capacity needs, focusing on minimising the household cost of new network builds.
The government committed Western Power to undertake early planning works in the network’s northern, central, and eastern areas to ensure a timely delivery of capacity needs.