$200m boost for SW biomass plant

A renewable energy project expected to create hundreds of jobs and attract millions of dollars in investment has been boosted by the retention of an environmental incentive scheme, developers say.

Despite last month’s lowering of Australia’s renewable energy target, Westgen – developers of a $200 million biomass plant south of Manjimup – will soon enter a tender process with Synergy to secure a contract to supply renewable energy to the electricity retailer.

Westgen director Richard Harris last Wednesday told the Manjimup Chamber of Commerce and Industry that the industry had been shrouded in uncertainty as it awaited the outcome of the Federal Government’s review of its renewable energy target figure.” We weren’t even sure if the RET was going to stay in place but all the uncertainty finally came to an end in June,” Mr Harris said.” While the target is lower than the initial 41,000 gigawatts, we welcome the announcement and we can now move forward with the project.” The RET, re-set at 33,000 gigawatt hours, operates in two parts.

A large-scale renewable energy target focuses on electricity retailers, while a small-scale renewable energy scheme focuses on personal generation for households and small businesses.

A Synergy spokesman said an expression of interest process would soon begin for the procurement of large-scale renewable energy certificates.

But Biomass Action Group spokesman Neil Bartholomaeus believes there is “low to no prospect” of the biomass plant securing a supply contract with Synergy.” Minister for Energy Mike Nahan told State Parliament in May this year that WA would support the renewable energy target via small-scale roof-top solar power generation and water heating – not by new large-scale projects, because WA has between 15 per cent to 20 per cent excess capacity in generating facilities and adding to that would increase costs to consumers,” Mr Bartholomaeus said.

Mr Bartholomaeus said Synergy was “under no pressure” to purchase large-scale energy certificates from Westgen following a merger with Verve Energy last year.

But Manjimup shire president Wade DeCampo, an advocate of the biomass project, said it was closer than ever and he was confident Synergy would “come to the party”.

Mr Harris said Westgen was also optimistic and, pending the outcome of the contract processes, would soon look to secure funding – some of which could come from the Federal Government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which had expressed interest in the project.